"This is a great day to celebrate the installation of this solar system."
Mayor Bob Foster, City of Long Beach
Creating the Solar Lane at Long Beach Airport
Working with the City of Long Beach was a blessing and a challenge. To the credit of the 25 - 30 City personnel involved, they were committed and thorough. One official became the City's point person, orchestrating multiple processes with the skills of a veteran. He got tremendous guidance from his colleagues. Put another way, they threw the book at the project! While structural and electrical plan checks and permitting were expedited, every regulation was carefully adhered to. At one point it looked like we'd have to file a "NOTAM" Notice to Air Men with the FAA to operate the crane to both set the poles and trackers, abiding by a strict 48-hour notice requirement.
The project began with positioning the trees to form a "solar lane," balancing aesthetics, unobstructed sunlight, and functionality on site. This began the change orders. Originally, we'd scoped the poles on the edge of the security parking lot. They were shifted onto the curb, requiring concrete cutting and repair. Their height was then raised for a minimum clearance of 10 feet to be out of harm's way. This required 25-foot, 10-inch round steel poles encased in concrete poured into 3-foot diameter holes eight feet into the ground.
Long Beach Airport has a long and colorful aviation history. We'd strategically chosen the spot for the solar trees with the airport director, right in the midst of passenger arrival and pick-up area. The site would maximize visibility, but we'd have to work with security and service vehicles, a coffee kiosk, and smoking area. Below ground was equally "active" with electric, water, natural gas, and jet fuel lines, plus FAA conduits. Crude drawings and dig-alerts were insufficient; ultimately an x-ray was used to check the spots where we wanted to plant the trees.
One of the first steps was to excavate runs for the conduit that would lead from the inverter to each tree. This required 18-inch trenches, inspected empty and then with conduit before backfilling. As soon as we got the trenches open, it rained. The City required all the water be pumped and removed to a certified disposal center. SunTrek had intended to backfill soil, but the City required use of a cement slurry. And then we needed to cart off the soil to a certified disposal center.A geotechnic analysis determined the type of cement required. I literally carried a recipe from vendor to City. During construction cement cylinders (samples) were taken during the pouring of caissons to a lab for continual strength testing. We needed 3500 PSI before the temporary supports could be removed and the poles loaded with trackers and panels.
Then another requirement based on the soil type: Each hole for each pole had to be drilled, and backfilled with cement within a 12-hour period. This meant drilling the hole, setting the pole using a crane, using a certified welder to weld the temporary supports in place, having an accredited welding inspector on hand to assure this work, running electrical conduits, paying an electrical inspector to check the wiring, then pouring the cement taking samples as required. All at night! (Thanks to photographer Jeff Honea.)
"Bizarre" was what the manufacturer called it. "Quite cautious" observed a city official. The fact was that the WattSun tracker we'd specified was not UL listed. The manufacturer claimed that its power supply acts as the barrier between high and low-voltage components. The electric official for the City of Long Beach was not moved. The City insisted on system certification since non-UL listed components were being used. This could be done by UL or an acceptable third party test lab.
Wait! There is a deadline. Oh yeah, that's our problem. Like Monopoly, we were temporarily off to project management jail and had to pay $200 to get out. Actually it cost $3,400. Now the system is adorned with special stickers to prove its safety and we have a report to back it up.
"Trackers" being calibrated
I'd invited Bob Botkin, Edison's CSI Administrator to the ribbon-cutting. He was shocked to see the completed system. "Wow, you guys work fast." And we had. Thanks to SunTrek Industries' capabilities - both in product procurement, project management, and in fielding a particularly able, on-site construction manager -- the state-of-the-art project was completed in a matter of weeks, and on time.
The Long Beach Airport system balances "sizzle with substance;" it scores high on EcoMotion's Polizzotto Factor for Sustainable Projects. With hundreds of thousands of passengers and their families along Solar Lane each year, dramatic yellow interpretive signage, the project is raising awareness of the solar future while offsetting a half million pounds of carbon dioxide.
Corporate Greening: Nissan and Pepsi
Nissan Motors sells about a million cars in the United States each year. To demonstrate its concern for the environment beyond increased gas mileage, it's now getting on the green bandwagon with its $100 million new headquarters facility in Franklin, Tennessee. The 50-acre campus complete with a light harvesting system, sunshades with reflective visors, also features air conditioning and heating controlled through outlets at each workstation. Nissan's engineers designed facility with the goal of using 35% less energy than comparable facilities. And it isn't seeking a seal of approval from the U.S. Green Building Council. According to a spokesperson, Nissan preferred to spend money to restore a 2.5-acre wetland "rather than have a plaque on the wall."
In Eugene, Oregon, the Pepsi-Cola Bottling Company is drawing attention. The facility features daylighting as well as a "bioswale" to capture water running off the roof. The company has converted its 27-tractor trailer truck fleet to biodiesel, and most recently added 1,260 Sharp 200 watt photovoltaic panels covering more than an acre of its roof.
Pepsi's 252 kW photovoltaic system is the second largest solar system in Oregon. Its power is sold directly to Eugene Water and Electric Board (EWEB) at a fixed rate of $0.15/kWh for the next ten years. This is about three times the price Pepsi pays today for its electricity. Pepsi is among a half dozen local companies that sell solar-generated power to EWEB thanks to its feed-in tariff. (See EcoMotion Network News V11#1.)
Pepsi spent $2,068,000 on the solar installation and will receive a $620,400 solar energy credit. It also will apply for a state tax credit worth 10% of the project cost each year for five years. The system will be paid off after five years; it's featured in PepsiCo's annual report.
Harnessing the Tides and Waves
San Francisco's Mayor Gavin Newsom is not fazed by a study of the generating potential of the tides of San Francisco. He still wants to submerge giant turbines below the Golden Gate Bridge to harvest the energy of the tides rushing in and out of the Bay. A study by the California Public Utilities Commission found the project cost prohibitive - about $15 million for each turbine plus annual maintenance. Worse yet, the study concluded that its output is only a fraction of the 38 MW projected, on the order of 1 - 2 MW. Newsom has vowed to fight for the plant noting that, "I care about arguments for it."
Swedish utility Vattenfall has announced a partnership with Irish company Wavebob to develop wave generators. The partnership will scale up Wavebob's technology for commercial applications, aiming at citing and bringing a 250 MW demonstration project to fruition. Vattenfall is committed to reducing its carbon footprint by 50% by 2030.
Member of the Week: Jonathan Port on top of Costco!
Jonathan Port is the CEO of Permacity Solar. This past week, Jon took me on a private tour of his fifth Costco solar installation, a 600 kW system being installed in Culver City, California. Jon showed me the roof featuring 1,872 ASE 310-watt panels, then gave an interview. For Costco, he developed a patented, non-penetrating racking system that provides nearly 25% more energy benefit in the form of reduced air conditioning.
North America's First Carbon Tax
British Columbia has taken a continental step: It is the first jurisdiction in North America to impose a carbon tax on its people. While considered by more likely suspects -- San Francisco and Portland - British Columbia's carbon tax will raise $1 billion Canadian over the next four years, sending price signals that advocates have urged for years.
The tax will apply to gasoline, diesel, natural gas, coal, propane and home heating fuels. The tax begins July 1 at about a 2.4 Canadian cents per liter (about a half cent per U.S. gallon), rising to 7.2 cents per liter in 2012. Annual natural gas bills will increase about $60 dollars, rising to $180 by 2012. For a Dodge Ram pick-up, the tax will increase annual operating costs by $68, rising to $204 in four years. Prius drivers start off at $20 per year.
British Columbia Finance Minister Taylor claims that all money collected through the carbon tax will be returned through tax cuts and credits. Incentives will be available for purchases of efficient appliances and vehicles. To help citizens adjust, consumers will get a $100 check in June. Lower income consumers will also get annual "climate action tax credits" in the amount of $100 for adults and $30 for children each year.