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Woodside: Solar panel plan to face council scrutiny

 

A proposal from a previous Woodside Town Council to install solar panels to power town facilities has raised questions about the viability of the panels as an energy source in light of recent developments in the renewable energy field.

The proposal comes at the same time that the California Energy Commission has mandated that homebuilders install panels on the roofs of all new homes beginning in 2020.

Some energy supply analysts, such as University of California at Berkeley economics professor Severin Borenstein, say that clean energy collectives like Peninsula Clean Energy and Marin Clean Energy are a more cost-effective way to go because of savings from economies of scale, and avoiding the purchase of panels, among other factors.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company delivers solar power and other renewable energy sources from Peninsula Clean Energy and other providers to environmentally conscious customers. Peninsula Clean Energy is a community choice energy program that San Mateo County formed in February 2016. Woodside is enrolled in the program.

Compared with solar farms, rooftop solar systems are "a very expensive way to expand renewables and would not be a cost-effective practice that other states and countries could adopt to reduce their own greenhouse gas footprints," Borenstein wrote in a letter to a member of the Energy Commission in opposition to the mandate.

Although there is some disagreement about whether solar farms inflate their real costs, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory based in Denver has reported that electricity from home solar panels is about two and a half times more expensive than power from large solar facilities on a cost basis.

The Town Council in September commissioned a $20,000 feasibility study for the solar panel project that will be coming before the new Town Council in the next couple of months, according to Town Manager Kevin Bryant.

However, four of the seven council seats changed hands in the November election so the council's perspective could change.

Bryant said he has seen a rough draft of the study, which will advise the council "to install or not install" the solar photovoltaic system.

According to a staff report on the feasibility study, the panels would be used to power Town Hall buildings and facilities, along with electric vehicle charging stations.

A tentative proposal calls for allocating $300,000 for the project as part of Woodside's climate action plan.

In a letter to The Almanac, Woodside resident Ed Kahl questioned the wisdom of pursuing the project. Woodside residents signed up for Peninsula Clean Energy to power their homes, Kahl wrote. "That's why everyone was surprised that the council wanted to do this.

"Five years ago PCE wasn't on the radar," he continued. "Solar panels will double their capacity in two years and in five years solar prices will fall significantly and Woodside's solar system will be 100 years old in 'technology years.'"

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Comments

2 people like this
Posted by Jane Gill
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 9, 2019 at 7:40 pm

Gotta love Ed Kahl! He’s the one who usually makes the most sense.


4 people like this
Posted by cheap power
a resident of Woodside: Family Farm/Hidden Valley
on Apr 10, 2019 at 1:21 pm

> ...that other states and countries could adopt to reduce their own greenhouse gas footprints

Interesting phrase.

Power produced locally has little loss in transmission. Power produced in plants far away can lose as much as 20%.

Put the panels up.


Like this comment
Posted by Awatkins
a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on Apr 10, 2019 at 2:34 pm

Hey “cheap power”: did you skim right over this part?

“the National Renewable Energy Laboratory based in Denver has reported that electricity from home solar panels is about two and a half times more expensive than power from large solar facilities”


Like this comment
Posted by cheap power
a resident of Woodside: Family Farm/Hidden Valley
on Apr 10, 2019 at 3:00 pm

The NREL is funded by the DoE, of which much of it's budget is strongly influenced by utility lobbyists. Big utilities always favor large scale plants - it's what they do, for obvious reasons.

Locally produced power is not a money maker for the utilities. For example, PG&E hates it.

Poke around on the outer edges of the DoE and the NREL and it gets very, very swampy.

Remember when it's director, Rick Perry wanted to eliminate the DoE? Well, until he got to run the gravy train ("uhhhh, I can't remember the third one....")


6 people like this
Posted by Really?
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 11, 2019 at 12:15 am

Yeah, those guys in Europe are plain stupid to not have built large solar farms. Good luck doing that in Woodside, BTW, LoL.
I mean, who cares about sustainability and the larger Good, if it costs us an extra penny right now?

Let's just keep making the annual contribution that makes us feel good, such as to an animal shelter or to feed the homeless, reap great press coverage and be done with what we contribute to society, while also alleviate our Tax burden.

An economics professor and a local lobbyist being the authorities on what is ecologically sustainable and helps the environment in the long term?

Good Riddance.

Deplorable and sad.

All is lost in this neck of the woods....


Like this comment
Posted by Too much solar
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 14, 2019 at 12:17 pm

I don't think it's wise for Woodside to build solar panels at this point, and especially not without storage. The state already has too much solar in midday on days like today, and this will just make the problem worse, as well as be more expensive than using PCE. There's a good post on this topic today in the Almanac: Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by gal up on ranch
a resident of Portola Valley: Portola Valley Ranch
on Apr 14, 2019 at 1:06 pm

>>> state already has too much solar in midday on days like today

The Net Demand Chart you linked to shows otherwise.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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