Energy program identifies potential savings for cities

Assessment shows investment in solar not recommended due to high cost of installation


SOLANA BEACH — A recently completed energy assessment did not recommend a direct investment in solar panels at city facilities, but it did identify potential savings of about $9,000.

In 2008 Solana Beach was one of three cities selected to participate in a “sustainable region” pilot program, a precursor to what is now called the Energy Roadmap Program.

As part of the plan, which is a partnership between the San Diego Association of Governments and San Diego Gas & Electric, the city received free technical and policy guidance to identify energy-saving opportunities at city facilities and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The goal is to find energy-saving projects and ways to pay for them. Energy use and savings are documented annually.

“The city was picked largely because it demonstrated the willingness and ability to implement energy efficiency and conservation programs through its many early successes,” Dan King, assistant to the city manager,” said.

For example, the city saved about $71,000 by retrofitting all streetlights with LED bulbs. Electric vehicle chargers were installed and an electric car was added to the city fleet.

The city received free technical help to identify ways to save energy in government operations. That included increasing staff knowledge of energy efficiency and promoting commuter benefits to employees.

The program also helps market energy efficiency to residents, schools and businesses and promotes green jobs and workforce training.

According to Sarah Strand of SANDAG, Solana Beach could save about $8,100 at the fire station and another $900 at the marine safety building by applying for a rate change.

As part of the program and at request of the city, six sites were assessed for solar feasibility.

Fletcher Cove Community Center had the most potential, but because of limited roof space and a lack of shade trees, it was recommended the panels be installed in the ground or over the parking lot, which would increase the cost of the system.

Strand said the estimated payback for all six sites would be nearly 15 years.

“A direct investment in solar is not recommended because of the high cost of installation,” she said.

As part of the energy audit, the study found City Hall, because of earlier efforts, is a highly efficient building, scoring 91 out of 100 possible points.

The roadmap will continue to provide a framework for how Solana Beach can continue to become a more energy-efficient city, Strand said, adding that SANDAG will remain available as a resource.

Councilman David Zahn asked staff to use the report to identify “the next wave” of energy-efficient projects that would “provide a decent payback.”

City Manager David Ott said staff has already “taken more than just some low hanging fruit.”

“We’ve done some pretty big things with your direction,” he said, adding that he will direct staff to bring back updated plans in the future.

“It looks like we’ve done a lot,” Mayor Lesa Heebner said. “I think this just shows that we’ve been on the right track all along.”

Carlsbad and Poway were also selected for the Energy Roadmap Program.

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