Sunday, April 20, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Alternative energy options getting easier

Alternative energy continues to be in the news, especially when gasoline prices are once again soaring. It is certainly big business in Fairfield.

Alternative energy can mean several things, but it includes windmills, solar panels, alternative fuels and even energy conservation programs. Fairfield is currently working with Solano Transportation Authority and other Solano County cities and the county proper to identify policies and programs to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.

Alternative energy involves both the commercial and residential sectors of the marketplace. During 2012, the city’s Building Division issued 172 residential photovoltaic permits and Richmond-American Homes is now offering solar panels as an option in its Goldridge and Paradise Valley subdivisions. Several solar panel installers are active in the local marketplace.

Commercial and industrial property owners are also heavily investing in “alternative energy.”

Everyone can see the tall InBev Anheuser-Busch windmill southwest of Fairfield, and InBev Anheuser-Busch is pushing for energy independence in a big way, including biofuels and other options at the plant. Fairfield’s prevalent west wind suggests that we will see more commercial efforts to “harvest the wind.” Ball Metal Corporation is looking at alternative energy. The company has submitted plans to the city for a new windmill to be built behind its facility at 2400 Huntington Drive.

Large and small companies now have an easier time getting involved in alternative energy. The California Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program (also known as Assembly Bill 811) allows local government bodies to offer loans to eligible property owners for sustainable energy projects. Through the creation of financing districts, property owners can finance renewable on-site generation installations and energy efficiency enhancements through a voluntary assessment on their property tax bills.

In the PACE program, a private vendor undertakes an energy audit of a commercial property. Recommended improvements can then be implemented with a no-money-down, long-term, fixed-rate (20-year amortization) financing program repaid through a property tax assessment. The local government sees investment and fee revenue and can also benefit from tracked improvements in energy conservation.

Currently, the California PACE program is only available for commercial properties, which do include multifamily (apartment) properties with five or more units.

In Solano County, the county has initiated planning for the PACE program. The Fairfield City Council also showed its support Tuesday for the PACE program by authorizing a letter supporting the Solano County PACE program, which would be implemented in both the incorporated and unincorporated areas.

A typical PACE program focuses on “Energy Star” improvements. In Fresno, for example, the following Energy Star measures – among others – are eligible:

  • Attic and wall insulation.
  • Light fixtures (no bulb-only retrofits).
  • Reflective roofs and coatings (metal and asphalt).
  • Windows, doors and skylights (including sliding glass doors, garage doors, storm doors and storm windows).
  • HVAC: Central air conditioners, air source heat pumps, furnaces and boilers.
  • Water heaters: Gas, oil and propane water heaters, electric heat pump water heaters.
  • Biomass stoves.
  • Geothermal heat pumps.
  • Solar panels.
  • Solar water heaters.
  • Small wind energy systems.

The installation of solar panels on a commercial building can be a heavy financial burden on a business if upfront payment is required because cost recovery would usually takes several years. The PACE program avoids upfront installation costs and consequently offers a powerful new option in the quest for commercial businesses to install clean energy technologies. The program also helps local governments in reaching the goals of the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006.

It is certainly nice to know that programs exist to help finance the greening efforts of businesses in Fairfield.

Economic Notes is an update from Fairfield City Hall written by Brian Miller and Karl Dumas of the Fairfield Planning and Development Department. They can be contacted at 428-7461 or email at kdumas@fairfield.ca.gov or bkmiller@fairfield.ca.gov.

Brian Miller and Karl Dumas

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Discussion | 1 comment

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  • RichFebruary 24, 2013 - 11:04 am

    California dummies---you're sitting on top of 500 billion barrels of Monterey shale oil and geologists and engineers are now saying it may not even require fracking to extract from the rock formations. The green energy fraud is a zero sum game that didn't work in Europe.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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