Posted on: June 4th, 2014 by Stas




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Heather Swan, Senior Project Coordinator, Lancaster Power Authority (LPA) is concerned that her city’s efforts to organize as a community power authority and foster new solar development will be hurt by restrictions proposed under Assembly Bill 2145  (AB 2145).

AB 2145 is supported by Pacific Gas and Electric and California utility allies in the California Legislature.

Lancaster strongly opposes AB 2145 because it would make the formation of a new Community Choice Aggregation (CCA), community power agency, more difficult. California law allows communities to establish a CCA with provisions for customers to opt out and stay with the big utilities. Under AB 2145, every customer would be required to opt in before the CCA could be established, creating huge costs in signing up utility customers one at a time.

The success of attracting new solar farms to Lancaster encouraged the city to consider enacting a CCA, already established by Marin Clean Energy and Sonoma Clean Power. The Lancaster City Council approved implementing the CCA. The next step in Spring of 2015 will be to include municipal agencies. Commercial users will be incorporated by the end of 2015.  Residential users will be included in early 2016 but could be moved up earlier to late 2015.

The CCA will allow Lancaster to improve its ability to sign power purchase agreements (PPA) and encourage more solar installations. Lancaster is working with developers to increase local employee training and the employment of local contractors.

Swan says Lancaster sees itself “as a generator of new business and new jobs, thanks to the leadership of the five entrepreneurs on the Lancaster City Council. Lancaster hopes that the establishment of a new CCA will increase the creation of new solar installations once the CCA is fully operational.”

Swan says persuading new solar developers to sign Power Purchase Agreements with the Lancaster Power Authority occurs at a time when she is hearing that Southern California Edison (SCE) has not been signing new agreements with power providers.

Swan says Lancaster sees the potential of developing solar fields at a time when the real estate collapse has hurt the local economy. LPA was set up to assist solar developers locating in Lancaster and facilitate installations for residents and commercial property owners.

LPA developed two solar projects, one with local schools and a second with municipal agencies:

1) 25 Lancaster city schools now have solar installations on their campuses financed by a $27 million bond issue which saves the schools a total of $420,000 a year.

2) 5 municipal sites generate 1.45 MW and save the city $50,000 a year.

The city is developing a third project in which it is partnering with Critical Path Transmission (CPT) and the City of Pittsburg to propose a new transmission line in the northern Antelope Valley. The project is currently moving through the evaluation process with California Independent System Operator (CAISO) and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). The transmission line will help alleviate congestion on the local transmission network.

Lancaster, whose city limits encompass 96 square miles, has assisted in solar farm installations that range from 5 acres to 500 acres. Swan noted that restricting a solar installation to 5 acres (the effective limit on Sonoma County agricultural land) reduces the economies of scale that is available from a larger installation. Lancaster saw its role in expediting permit approvals for solar installations. Today a homeowner can get a solar panel permit approval over the counter at City Hall in about 15 minutes. Commercial solar farms average 3-4 months for approvals. The west side of Lancaster had historically been an agriculture area but water shortages changed this. Solar farms now grow in  place of carrots, onions and alfalfa.



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