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Sacramento Takes Next Step On Solar

Sacramento has taken a significant leap forward in establishing itself not only as a driving force in California’s commitment to reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, but also in highlighting Sacramento’s capability and true potential behind being a 21st century economic hub.

On Thursday, December 14th, the Sacramento International Airport unveiled its Solar Farm, which lies over two solar array fields. The environmental and economic implications for Sacramento following the solar farm are monumental. Built on land that was previously underutilized, the Solar Farm, will now be responsible for providing about one third of the electricity needs of the Sacramento International Airport and equate to an average annual cost savings of $850,000 over the next 25 years. This solar facility is now the largest on any airport in California and one of the largest airport-based solar facilities in the entire U.S. The message that seeps through to employers, employees, businesses and residents is one of Sacramento’s dedication to sustainability, and above all, commitment to a ‘community of livable quality.’

The newly constructed solar farm is the fruition of a joint partnership between Borrego Solar Systems Inc. and NRG Energy Inc.  Borrego provided the capital infrastructure, while NRG provided the financial support and will continue to own and operate the facility. Under a Power Purchase Agreement, NRG will sell electricity to the Sacramento International Airport at below-market rates—a mutually beneficial agreement for both parties. The infrastructure financed for the solar farm by NRG came with no up-front costs to the Airport of Sacramento County. Instead, NRG will be reimbursed over the 25 year period through the Power Purchase Agreement.

A particularly important benefit of this solar farm is that solar electricity is a renewable source of energy and does not contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. The annual environmental benefit generated by the solar facility is quantified as having a carbon reduction equivalent to that of removing more than 2,300 cars from the road, not consuming 25,000 barrels of oil, or not burning 11,500,000 pounds of coal. Using more than 23,000 solar panels, all of which are mounted on tracking equipment that follow the suns path over the course of the day, ensures ultimate efficiency and productivity.

Discussing these remarkable attributes at the press conference were John Wheat, Jackie Pitera, Kevin Prince, David Tamayo, Supervisor Don Nottoli, Senator Richard Pan and Assemblymember Kevin McCarty. A common theme stressed among these officials was the important role the solar farm plays in asserting and depicting Sacramento’s commitment to its communities. These leaders explained the importance behind a city’s commitment to community health by describing how at the heart of economic growth and prosperity lies health at the community level. In order to thrive economically, communities and the residents must be healthy.  Seeing this solar facility project through is a step in the right direction—as Assemblymember McCarty stressed, “pushing hard to make California clean only leads to a multiplier effect”, and the implications for community health behind the ‘multiplier effects’ are critical.

Valley Vision manages the Cleaner Air Partnership, which helped the Sacramento region attain the federal particulate matter standard (PM 2.5), experiencing a  66% reduction in smog-forming emissions and a 63% reduction in smog-forming reactive organic gasses. This solar farm will help further reduce regional emissions. It is great to see progress being made by other entities and it is exciting to see what the future holds for environmental health improvements.

Subscribe to Valley Vision’s Cleaner Air Partnership newsletter to keep up with our region’s efforts to ensure clean and livable communities!

Alejandra Gallegos was a Valley Vision Project Associate working on the Cleaner Air Partnership and broadband initiatives.