Project Background

SANTA CLARA COUNTY GROUND MOUNT SOLAR PV PROJECT

FAF is sponsoring a project to generate renewable energy on undeveloped County-owned properties, including “non-traditional” sites, such as park land and roads. The proposed project consists of construction and operation of ground-mounted photovoltaic (PV) solar arrays with an electrical generation capacity of up to 11.4 megawatts along with associated infrastructure at six locations across central and south Santa Clara County. Details on each of the six selected sites are listed at right under “Related Articles.” The project was approved by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, April 7.

PROJECT BACKGROUND

In March of 2012, Santa Clara County Board Supervisor Dave Cortese requested that the Facilities and Fleet (FAF) Department explore County owned sites for renewable energy development opportunities and indicated that his goal was for the County to achieve sufficient revenue or savings from renewable energy generation to offset the costs of the County's electric utility bill.  

In October of 2013 FAF issued a Request for Statement of Qualifications (RFSQ) for developers who were interested in partnering with the County to develop large renewable energy projects. In March of 2014 the Board of Supervisors of the County of Santa Clara approved FAF’s recommendation to select SunPower Corporation to develop solar photovoltaic projects at County owned sites that were underutilized. This action resulted in the creation of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the County and SunPower. The MOU establishes the guidelines and parameters for the development of solar PV projects (see County-SunPower MOU for details). The key parameters of the MOU included: 

Activities to be Performed

To develop solar PV projects, SunPower will work with the County to:

1. ​Determine the number and size of solar PV systems that will provide utility cost-savings or revenue to the County;

2. Evaluate and select County properties that are suitable for solar PV system installations; and,

3. Define the design, location, interconnection, costs and financing of the solar PV systems that SunPower and the County determine to be viable after site evaluation and project size definition.

Project Development Costs

SunPower will perform the development activities without cost to the County, with the exception of the costs associated with specified environmental reports and any mitigation requiring compensatory land protection or acquisition.  The County would have the option, but not the obligation, to incur these costs and continue the development of the applicable project.

Exclusivity Rights

During the MOU term SunPower will have the exclusive right to develop, design and negotiate agreements for solar PV installations on County properties. Any resulting project agreements would be brought forward to the Board of Supervisors for review and approval.

Violation of Exclusivity Obligations

In the unlikely event the County violates its exclusivity obligations, SunPower may terminate the MOU and the County would be responsible to reimburse SunPower for costs that SunPower incurred during the project development process, up to, but not exceeding, $300,000.

Term

The term of this MOU will start March 25, 2014 and expire on the earliest of the: 

1. ​Board approval of all negotiated final project agreements;

2. Written notification of the cancellation of this MOU by either Party; or, 

3. March 24, 2016.

California Government Code 4217

Under the MOU, projects that are otherwise acceptable will be awarded to SunPower using California Government Code 4217, which allows public agencies to enter directly into cost-saving energy project agreements.
 

No Obligation to County

In the event cost savings would not be achieved, or if the projects are otherwise deemed unacceptable, the County will be under no obligation to implement projects with SunPower.
 

All Projects Subject to Board Approval

Should the Board choose to approve this MOU, FAF would continue to inform and update the Board of Supervisors of the progress made during the project development process.  All final project agreements would be subject to the Board’s approval.

The County currently has a portfolio of 6.5 Megawatts of Solar PV systems across nine of its owned sites. These systems combined are now generating an estimated 10 million kilowatt hours of renewable electricity each year. The electricity production represents 7.7% of the total electricity consumed from its normal business operations.

Under this new renewable energy project development partnership with SunPower the County is looking at adding an additional 9.3 megawatts of solar PV systems to its portfolio. These systems are expected to produce an estimated 15 million kilowatt hours of renewable electricity to support the County’s operations. This amount of electricity combined with the production from the County’s existing solar PV portfolio will total 25 million kilowatt hours and represent nearly 20% of the County’s total electricity consumption.   

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