For years, the faith community has been making an impact on greening their facilities, educating their members and impacting clean energy and climate legislation. Our colleagues at Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto are showing us another path to the transition to a cleaner world – large-scale solar within the Feed-In-Tariff (FIT) system.
Simply put, FIT allows placement of a large-scale solar system to be placed on a property with all of the electricity generated going directly to the local utility. Usually, a FIT project is placed on governmental property. UU Church of Palo Alto was the first non-governmental property in Palo Alto to have a FIT system placed. Working without a “playbook”, the congregation had the good fortune of needed personnel within its membership to accomplish the project, including:
- attorneys, one of whom had formerly worked for the City, and one who currently works for a law firm in the City
- an electrical engineer who had worked in electrical power supply projects for the Stanford Linear Accelerator (SLAC) and other nuclear labs
- several activists for clean energy
- a consultant who had designed the feed-in tariff program for the City
- a highly experienced CEO of start-ups in Silicon Valley
- a tough-minded Board President with the patience needed for the job
- a supportive congregation that voted 100% in favor of the project.
Working with the City of Palo Alto in a highly supportive and streamline process, a 233-kilowatt solar canopy system commenced on September 14, 2014. The developer for the project was Kommuna Energy of Palo Alto; the electrical contractor was Sprig Electric of San Jose; and the owner is Valta Energy in San Carlos. It was finished on July 3, 2018, and now provides electricity directly to the City of Palo Alto Utilities Department. To read more, check out this article.
Feed-In-Tariff projects are fast becoming a staple for many utility companies in the Golden State. Some large utilities, are combining FIT programs with environmental justice aims, such as the rooftop solar program for low-income residents, from Los Angeles Department of Water & Power. Recognizing that solar homes are often in wealthier areas, climate justice advocates are actively supporting such projects, which allow all communities to benefit from renewable – and more affordable – energy. CIPL has been active on advocacy for the production of FIT projects for years, staring in 2011 with the LADWP.
To check out possible opportunities in your area, get more information on California FIT programs.