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SOMO’s new 1.158 MW solar array is historic 1st privately financed commercial PACE project

SOMO’s new 1.158 MW solar array is historic 1st privately financed commercial PACE project
 

Sonoma Mountain Village’s new 1.158 MW solar installation now enables the One Planet Community to generate 100% of its electricity needs from their roof top solar system, with enough power for 2,000 homes, and was financed with a unique PACE mechanism.  In what is being referred to as a game-changer for funding solar power, Congressman Mike Thompson (CA-1) helped “flip the switch” on the project’s new solar system in late 2011, and the panels are now live.

Sonoma Mountain Village already had an existing 1.14 MW solar installation on one building and desired an additional 1.158 MW solar system that would interconnect with the electrical grid and qualify for the California Solar Initiative (CSI) rebate. The solar design team created a solution that would deliver maximum solar performance, qualify for the utility rebate, and overcome space constraints. By installing a new electrical meter at the site, Stellar Energy’s team was able to install two highly efficient solar PV arrays and provide maximum benefit to Sonoma Mountain Village

Stellar Energy’s installation crews were able to complete construction on budget and 30 days ahead of schedule, enabling operations to start earlier than initially planned.  The project is expected to save over $200,000 in annual electricity costs. In addition, Sonoma Mountain Village was able to take advantage of the federal grant in lieu of tax credit, which reimbursed 30 percent of the project’s cost, as well as accelerated depreciation of the system and utility rebates. This system also offsets more than .73 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually (EPA calculator).

The new total solar capacity is now 181,000 square feet, or almost 4 acres, of roof top solar panels.

INNOVATIVE PACE FINANCING

The project is remarkable from a financing perspective becomes it marks an important industry first: the developers of the first One Planet Community in the United States, Sonoma Mountain Village, received $1.6 million in funding from private capital made available by Clean Fund (San Rafael, CA), who structured and financed the transaction, to the Sonoma County Energy Independence Program (SCEIP) through their Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program. The funds received paid for a second 1MW solar electric system, allowing Sonoma Mountain Village to cover 100% of its electric needs from on‐site renewable power.

Representative Lynn Woolsey (CA-6) recognizes the power for Green jobs and a cleaner environment that solar power at this scale represents, stating: “With this solar power installation, Sonoma Mountain Village is showing once again that it is a dynamic force for job-creation in our community and a responsible corporate citizen.”   Representative Thompson agrees.  A leading advocate of PACE programs, Thompson has stated that “PACE is one of the most creative and successful solutions to our nation’s energy crisis – and it is a common sense way to create good, green jobs.”

The move has made Sonoma Mountain Village a “poster child” for PACE financing in a New York Times article.

The SCEIP was initially set up to provide Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing using the County’s Treasury funds.  On March 1, 2011, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to extend the capital resources available to SCEIP and allow private financial institutions to fund projects through the Program.

The entry of private funding is especially necessary to scale large, long-term clean-energy projects, like Sonoma Mountain Village, nation-wide.  While most cities and counties do not have sufficient capital to fund these program themselves, the successful pairing of the PACE structure with private capital enables widespread PACE adoption.

The entry of private funding also supports the long-term development of financing and business goals that make aiming higher and Greener more feasible. For this reason, the PACE program has received strong support from the business community, as well as across Sonoma County community.

Sonoma Mountain Village possesses the scale, benefits, and complexity to demonstrate the importance of PACE and the entry of private funding for renewable energy generation.  “Sonoma Mountain Village delivers exactly the kind of environmental, economic and community benefits the PACE financing structure of the Sonoma County Energy Independence Program is designed to promote,” according to Donna Dunk, Auditor –Controller – Treasurer –Tax Collector of Sonoma County.  “The complexity and large size of the Sonoma Mountain Village PACE project gave us the impetus we were looking for to bring the expertise and financing resources of private investment firms like Clean Fund into the SCEIP program.”

Sonoma Mountain Village is a 200 acre mixed‐use, solar‐powered, zero‐waste community under development in Sonoma County, CA.  The community currently has over 30 businesses and 800 employees in its existing commercial, office and industrial space. Plans for residential options including apartments, condominiums and single family homes; and an array of hospitality, entertainment and athletic services are currently planned. In 2008, Sonoma Mountain Village was awarded California’s highest and most prestigious environmental honor – the Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award as a model for comprehensive land use planning.

PACE provides long-term financing for energy improvements through special tax assessments.

SCEIP provides financing for private property improvements to increase water and energy efficiency or produce renewable energy.