Top Ten Highlights of Cleantech in San Diego, California


San Diego, America’s Finest City is a picturesque coastal city located in Southern California bordering Mexico. Since 2006, California has the distinction as one of the few states to aggressively create and adopt clean technology solutions, exemplified by the state mandate that its electricity retailers produce one-third of its power from renewable energy sources by 2020. Between housing one of the most internationally recognized cleantech clusters of over 800 companies and a robust pipeline of energy initiatives and programs, the San Diego region is poised to lead the state in realizing its ambitious clean energy goals. Below are the top ten examples of why San Diego is head above shoulders in leading this unprecedented charge.

1 ) CleanTECH San Diego

San Diego is world renowned for its culture of collaboration and collegiality and is a natural setting for a cleantech “collaboratory.” Through meaningful partnerships with private and public sector champions like Kyocera, Invenergy, Sapphire Energy, Honeywell, GE, Bank of America, City of San Diego, Sempra Energy and others, CleanTECH San Diego promotes regional sustainable best practices serving as a catalyst for its high concentration of cleantech activities. CleanTECH San Diego is one of the most globally recognizable cleantech clusters. This member-based advocacy organization was created in 2007 as a vehicle to accelerate the mega region as a global leader in the clean technology sector. By collaborating with the multitude of stakeholders, it leverages its assets to deploy sustainable solutions in the global low carbon economy

2 ) San Diego Builds Award Winning Cleantech Cluster in a Culture of Innovation

Over 800 companies operating in the cleantech sector call the San Diego region home, representing solar, biofuels, clean transportation, energy efficiency, energy storage and smart grid enterprises. Supported by world class universities and more than 50 regional research institutes including UC San Diego, San Diego State University (SDSU), Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the San Diego Center for Algae Biotechnology, the emergence of San Diego’s cleantech cluster is a natural extension of its innovation economy in the high-tech, biotech and defense industries.

3 ) San Diego Leads Nation in Solar Power Installations and MW Generation

San Diego continues to lead California and the nation in both the number of solar installations on residential, commercial and government rooftops and overall solar generation capacity. The city of San Diego, the region’s largest municipality, boasts more than 4,500 solar installations and nearly 37 megawatts (MW) in capacity as well as more than 16,000 installations and over 125 MW within San Diego Gas & Electric’s service territory. According to a recent report, if the city of San Diego were a nation unto itself, it ranks among the top 25 nations in terms of solar capacity, with more solar power than Mexico. San Diego continues to enjoy rapid market adoption for residential solar offering a general rebate program (administered by the California Center for Sustainable Energy and SDG&E) and scheduled projects in SDG&E’s service territory adding up to almost two-thirds of its residential goal under California’s Million Solar Roofs Initiative .

4 ) San Diego Boasts One of the Nation’s Largest Electric Vehicle Deployments

One of the US leaders in electric vehicle (EV) adoption, San Diego has more than 1,300 vehicles on the road. More than 10 percent of the 20,000 Nissan Leafs sold were ordered by San Diegans. The region is also preparing for obe of the largest public charging infrastructure deployments as one of five US markets awarded a Department of Energy grant for 2,500 charging stations. This commitment to EVs is attracting business models like Daimler Chrysler’s car2go San Diego, the only all-electric car sharing service in North America. car2go’s infusion of 300 electric vehicles increased the cities number of EVs by more than 40 percent and cemented San Diego as one of the top cities for electric vehicle drivers. Since its launch in November 2011, car2go touts more than 6,000 member sign-ups and roughly 25,000 trips taken in the smartfortwo electric drive vehicles.

5 ) San Diego Trains the Next-Gen Biofuels Workforce

Home to more than 30 biofuels companies and high concentration of world-class research institutions, San Diego is a known hub for biofuels discovery, production and commercialization. To foster this growth, CleanTECH San Diego partnered with BIOCOM, BIOCOM Institute, San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation (EDC), Imperial Valley EDC, UC San Diego, San Diego State University and others to form the Educating and Developing Workers for the Green Economy (EDGE) Initiative. EDGE provides curriculum, training and placement services in the advanced biofuels/industrial biotechnology industry to unemployed and incumbent workers within San Diego and the Imperial Valley. Program curriculum is constructed with strategic input from industry ensuring its needs are matched with a highly skilled workforce

6 ) San Diego: Superior Stewards of Energy Efficiency

In partnership with San Diego Gas &Electric and CleanTECH San Diego’s Greening San Diego Program, 13 of San Diego County’s 18 municipalities joined forces to form the San Diego Street Light Working Group (SLWG). Using a combination of US Department of Energy grants and on-bill financing, the cities are retrofitting approximately 55,000 streetlights from outdated high-pressure and low-pressure sodium luminaries to energy-efficient LED and induction technology. With a 40 percent average in kilowatt hour (kWh) reduction, this retrofit program is saving taxpayers $3 million a year and generating more than $25 million for the local economy through job creation for local electrical contractors, suppliers and lighting manufacturers. The Greening San Diego Program is making strides with municipalities throughout the region in energy efficiency retrofitting, climate action plans, incentives and rebates, community outreach and education, and sustainable water and waste best practices.

7 ) San Diego Home to Nation’s Most Intelligent Utility

Voted the most intelligent utility in America for the third straight year by IDC, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) continues to demonstrate its long-term vision of smart grid deployment, energy efficiency and renewable energy procurement. In 2011, SDG&E reported more than 20.8 percent of its energy delivered from renewable energy sources, including wind, solar, biomass, biogas and geothermal resources, and is positioned to achieve 33 percent by 20210 as mandated by the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS).

8 ) UC San Diego Showcases Most Advanced Microgrid

UC San Diego houses one of the world’s most renowned microgrids on campus self generating 93 percent of its energy consumption, providing local control and integration of electrical supply and demand while serving as a living laboratory for energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions. This microgrid enables 42 megawatts of generating capacity, including a central cogeneration plant, energy storage, demand response. solar photovoltaic arrays and fuel cells running on methane gas from a nearby landfill.. This central microgrid allows campus operators to digitally manage the diverse portfolio of energy generation and storage resources while saving millions of dollars in energy costs. The university recently received an “A” rating on the Sustainability Endowment Institute’s Green Report Card, due in large part to its aggressive goals of carbon neutrality by 2025.

9 ) Smart City San Diego Building Template on How to Build a Smart City

In January 2011, San Diego Gas & Electric, GE, UC San Diego, the City of San Diego and CleanTECH San Diego launched the Smart City San Diego collaborative, a multi-year initiative that is developing and implementing local initiatives designed to improve the San Diego region’s energy independence, empower consumers, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and drive economic growth. Numerous leaders from government institutions, businesses, academia and non-profit organizations are maximizing synergies to ensure that current programs move ahead while new opportunities are identified that increase sustainability development.

10 ) San Diego Leads the US Military’s Clean Energy Efforts

The Department of Defense continues to show its commitment to having the US armed forces utilize renewable energy for at least half of all energy usage by 2020 and the San Diego military presence exemplifies this goal. Naval Base Coronado recently installed 15 solar trees, each able to power three to four standard sized homes a day. Additionally, the Navy’s largest contiguous rooftop solar array at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) complex in San Diego began its first full year of generating electricity in 2012. The Miramar Marine Corps Air Station in San Diego is the first military base in the U.S. to be powered by landfill gas. The plant provides 3.2 MW of energy, enough for nearly half of the air station’s energy needs, and along with other renewable energy projects within the next two years will exceed the Navy’s goal for Miramar. Camp Pendleton, another marine base in San Diego, is home to a solar project that generates electricity for base operations and a housing project, making Pendleton one the greenest US armed forces bases on the planet. The array, which is made up of two hundred twenty-five commercial solar panels, generates 1.5 Megawatts of power, about five percent of the base’s total energy requirement.

Article by Shawn Lesser, Co-founder & Managing Partner of Atlanta-based Watershed Capital Group – an investment bank assisting sustainable fund and companies raise capital, perform acquisitions, and in other strategic financial decisions. He is also a Co-founder of the GCCA Global Cleantech Cluster Association ”The Global Voice of Cleantech”. He writes for various cleantech publications and is known as the David Letterman of Cleantech for his “Top 10″ series. He is also author of The 2012 Cleantech Directory. He can be reached at

About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

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