Something to Crow About?

Jim Bell and Common Sense

619-758-9020, www.jimbell.com

Recently the City of San Diego announced its number one ranking for large California cities in solar power installations. According the study, “California’s Solar Cities,” sponsored by Environment California, there are just under 20 MW of installed solar (PV) capacity inside the city’s boundaries.

Being number one in California for PV installations is something to be proud of, but what does that mean towards making San Diego renewable electricity supply and price secure? And, how long will it take for San Diego to become renewable electricity supply and price secure at an installation rate of 5 MW of installed PV capacity per year. Five MW of renewable energy capacity per year is the amount the city pledged to install per year, 6 years ago.

The answer is 600 years, or 30 times slower than we need to install PV to become renewable electricity self-sufficient in 20 years. To become renewable electricity self-sufficient in 20 years, San Diego would have to install an average of 150 MW of PV capacity per year. To be completely renewable energy self-sufficient in 30 years (electricity, gaseous and liquid fuels), San Diego will have to up its installation rate to 250 MW per year.

Additionally, these installation rates assume that San Diego will also become 40% more electricity, natural gas and liquid fuel use efficient.

With a 40% increase in energy use efficiency, San Diego can become renewable electricity self-sufficient by installing 15% efficient PV panels over 17% of its roofs and parking lots. Becoming completely renewable energy self-sufficient would require installing 15% efficient PV panels over 43% of the City’s roofs and parking lots, assuming 1,000 sq. ft. of roof and parking lot per capita.

Our dependence on imported energy has already given us rising prices and our share of rapidly rising cost-of-energy shocks. Becoming renewable energy self-sufficient is our best chance to avoid them in the future.

Given the amount of PV and efficiency improvements we should be installing compared with what we now install, perhaps pats on the back are premature.

If San Diego was leading other California cities in becoming renewable electricity self-sufficient in 20 years and renewable energy self-sufficient in 30 years, that would be something to crow about.