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Top 2012 Cleantech Milestones in San Diego

Despite tumultuous times for the industry, 2012 marked a banner year for clean technology in San Diego. Numerous organizations within the region’s cleantech cluster – from startups to multinational brands – made significant strides in continuing San Diego’s leadership in the global advanced energy economy. CleanTECH San Diego, a regional non-profit member organization dedicated to advancing cleantech innovation and adoption, picked a few of the highlights from a long list of local achievements as we say goodbye to 2012 and welcome 2013.

1. US Defense Department Awards $3.5 Million to San Diego Companies to Install Cluster of Three Microgrids

In November, the Department of Defense Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP) awarded Power Analytics, OSIsoft and Viridity Energy a $3.5 million grant to create a secure cluster of microgrids at three San Diego military bases. These best-in-class pioneers will install smart grid technology systems creating the first centrally managed microgrid cluster in a US military environment. This project was selected by the ESTCP and stands out as one of only five technology awards out of more than 750 submitted nationally. The proposal submitted by these three companies was cited as a “must-fund” demonstration for its ability to significantly reduce energy consumption and improving the security of electrical supply for the all three naval facilities. This esteemed selection by the DoD is an illustration of the proven “gold standard” microgrid solution from these technology partners, which is currently deployed at UC San Diego’s world-renowned microgrid.

2. San Diego Approves Development of Tule Wind Project and Signals Leadership in Renewables

On August 8, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted in favor of Iberdrola’s Tule Wind Power Project, a wind farm proposed on federal, county, state and Ewiiaapaayp Band of Kumeyaay tribal land in wind-rich McCain Valley. The Board’s supportive vote shows the region’s commitment to local renewable energy generation and represents a significant stance in welcoming utility-scale renewable energy development in the County. The Tule Wind Power Project will generate up to 200 megawatts (MW) of clean power, enough to serve approximately 60,000 local homes, and reduce carbon emissions by nearly 250,000 metric tons per year. The project will also provide the County with approximately $3.5 million in annual property tax revenue – totaling $105 million over the project’s 30-year life – as well as supporting more than 915 jobs in the San Diego economy and $30 million in sales and use tax during the year of construction, and roughly $1 million per year in lease payments to local landowners.

3. San Diego Accelerates Electric Vehicle Adoption and Charging Station Infrastructure

Today more than 2,000 privately-owned electric vehicles (EVs) are passing you on the roads of San Diego County. The city launched in early 2012 the nation’s first all-electric EV car sharing service through car2go, a Daimler subsidiary. The program boasts more than 12,500 members and more than 200,000 trips in the smartfortwo electric vehicles. Additionally, the California Energy Commission awarded UC San Diego a grant with charging manufacturers RWE and ABB to build the world’s largest and most diverse campus EV infrastructure. The grant provides for 26 Level Two chargers and three DC fast chargers and will further complement both the car2go and private electric vehicle footprint and uptake.

4. California Votes for Proposition 39; Enabling Statewide Energy Efficiency Upgrades

Last election day, Californians overwhelmingly voted to pass Proposition 39, an initiative that will close a corporate tax loophole for out-of-state companies that generated an annual $1 billion revenue loss for the state. Proposition 39 will boost San Diego’s economy, creating thousands of quality jobs with half of the revenues generated by closing the loophole dedicated to funding energy efficiency and clean energy programs at schools and municipal buildings. By upgrading old heating/cooling systems, replacing old windows, inefficient lighting and other energy solutions, this investment will dramatically lower public energy costs, saving cities and taxpayer money for years to come. It will also reinvigorate the local construction and contracting industries performing these retrofits.

5. Smart City San Diego Unveils Solar-to-EV Project at San Diego Zoo

On November 27, San Diego Mayor Sanders joined Smart City San Diego – a collaboration between GE, SDG&E, UC San Diego, City of San Diego and CleanTECH San Diego – to dedicate the historic Solar-to-EV Project in the San Diego Zoo parking lot. The nation’s first system of its kind harnesses energy from the sun to charge plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs,) stores solar power for future use and provides renewable energy to the electrical grid. This project features 10 solar canopies producing 90 kilowatts (kW) of electricity (enough energy at peak capacity to power 59 homes) powering five EV charging stations, with one station located in a nearby ADA-accessible parking space. Utilizing new battery technology, the Solar-to-EV project’s 100-kW energy storage system is charged by the solar canopies and used to offset power demands on the grid to charge the electric vehicles. When the battery is at full capacity, the excess solar energy is distributed onto the grid to improve reliability and benefit the surrounding community. With more than 3.5 million annual visitors at the Zoo, this project serves as an example of the Zoo’s commitment to sustainability and the region’s excellence in collaboration.

6. SDG&E Energizes Sunrise Powerlink

On June 18, SDG&E flipped the switch to its Sunrise Powerlink, a 500,000-volt, 117-mile transmission line linking San Diego to Imperial Valley. The Sunrise Powerlink Project, a $1.9 billion investment chiefly designed to transport renewable energy from the solar and wind-rich Imperial Valley region, will bring more than 1,000 megawatts (MW) of additional imported power to San Diego, enough energy to serve more than 650,000 homes. The project – characterized as one of the most complex and challenging in SDG&E’s history – is a result of more than five years of environmental review and permitting as well as 18 months of construction. With the nearby San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station shut down through the year, the Sunrise Powerlink proved timely and invaluable as it provides essential support in maintaining electrical reliability during heat waves.

7. San Diego ‘s Solar Adoption and Cluster Unparalleled

In 2012, San Diego County solar installation exceeds 132 megawatts (MW), with the City of San Diego’s total installations nearing 50 MW. The region is home to more than 200 solar companies, ranging from panel manufacturers like Kyocera and Soitec to installer and leasing firms such as Sullivan Solar Power and OneRoof Energy. Kyocera announces it surpassed production of 2 million solar panels while Soitec opened its utility-scale concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) manufacturing facility in Rancho Bernardo. The Soitec plant will have a 200-MW annual production capacity and create 450 direct jobs and 1,000 indirect regional jobs.

OneRoof Energy – the nations’ first residential solar company to work directly with roofers to sell and install its systems – launched in San Diego and hires more than 100 people as it expands operations. Sullivan Solar Power enjoyed tremendous growth in the, completing large-scale solar projects across military bases, university campuses, commercial sites, and residences. Its CEO, Daniel Sullivan voted San Diego Business Journal’s Most Admired CEO and made the finalist list for Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year. Meanwhile, global companies like Everest Solar Systems and KACO New Energy have entered the San Diego solar scene to provide solar equipment supplies to this frothy marketplace.

8. Consortium Expands Curricula and Training Program to Support Local Biofuels Industry

The EDGE (Educating and Developing Workers for the Green Economy) Initiative – a regional consortium developed to help meet current employment needs in the growing biofuels industry – completed two years of workforce training and placing hundreds of workers in internships and permanent jobs. The EDGE Initiative created both curriculum and career-focused tools aimed specifically at unemployed, underemployed and transitioning workers looking to make the move to a high-growth industry. Since 2010, the program trained more than 300 participants and placed more than 100 in permanent positions. Currently, the curricula developed for EDGE is being expanded to other industry associations and academic institutions across California, and potentially the globe.

9. City Launches Competitive Market for Commercial Property Retrofits

This fall, San Diego City Council voted to allow several Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing program options for commercial property owners, making San Diego one of the most robust commercial-scale energy retrofit markets in California. The programs – administered by vendors including CaliforniaFIRST, Figtree Energy Resource, Ygrene Energy Fund and Renovate America – allow commercial property owners to use municipal bonds to finance energy efficiency improvement projects, using their properties as collateral. Owners then pay off the retrofits through assessments added to their annual property tax bill. Private financing is used to supply the upfront capital for the retrofits so that local government budgets are unburdened while property owners benefit through no up-front costs for improvements, increased building values and efficiencies, and reduced energy costs.

10. Honeywell Moves Its International Green Boot Camp to San Diego

This summer, Honeywell broke from tradition and moved its annual Green Boot Camp from New Jersey to San Diego, bringing 70 internationally selected middle school teachers to San Diego. The Green Boot Camp is a five-day workshop that focuses on best practices for teaching environmental and sustainability concepts. This workshop, part of a partnership with CleanTECH San Diego, SDG&E, California Center for Sustainable Energy and the Urban Corps of San Diego County, engaged teachers in a variety of interactive experiences such as designing and building a solar house and wind turbine, which equipped them with new teaching methods and sustainability concepts to share with their students and incorporate in their school curriculum for the next generation of sustainability leaders.

Article by CleanTECH San Diego, originally printed in