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San Diego, CA
City's crown jewel could shine more brilliantly
Solar installations proposed by mayor
By Helen GaoUnion-Tribune Staff Writer
2:00 a.m. May 7, 2009
BALBOA PARK — San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders wants to turn Balboa Park into a solar-power showcase by investing millions of dollars to bring clean energy to the renowned tourist destination.
The money he's proposing to use comes from the federal economic stimulus package. San Diego expects to receive more than $56 million in stimulus money, including $12.5 million in Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants.
Sanders wants to spend $5 million of that grant money for solar installations throughout the 1,200-acre park. He's expected to announce his initiative today.
By partnering with SunEdison, a Maryland-based solar energy provider, the mayor hopes to leverage that money to achieve a $30 million investment.
“Balboa Park is obviously the jewel of San Diego,” Sanders said. “A lot of people use Balboa Park for a lot of things. It's the perfect site to let people know that we are really doing something that's really important to the entire region.”
Currently, the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center and the World Beat Center are the only buildings in Balboa Park with solar panels on their roofs.
There are no details yet as to which sites in the park will be selected for new installations.
Sanders' aides said they will reach out to park officials and community members before making decisions. They also said they will work to make sure that the solar equipment doesn't affect the park's aesthetics.
John Rotsart, executive director of the San Diego Model Railroad Museum, said the rooftop of the Casa de Balboa building, where the museum is housed, would be perfect for solar panels.
“It's a flat roof,” Rotsart said. “The sides of the buildings have relatively high parapet walls around. It hides any cells. Right now, we are just waiting for the city to help us.”
Vicki Granowitz, chairwoman of the city's Balboa Park Committee, said she welcomes the mayor's proposal.
“I think it's wonderful,” Granowitz said. “It's certainly consistent with our goal for the future of Balboa Park. For the last few years, we've had a number of projects that have helped us with sustainability.”
Sanders' plan calls for installing enough panels to generate 2.5 to 3 megawatts of power. Each megawatt is enough to serve about 650 homes. Balboa Park's electrical load is about 5 megawatts.
San Diego already has a contract with SunEdison whereby the company agrees to install up to 5 megawatts of solar systems on city facilities and maintain them in exchange for the city's commitment to buy its power for 20 years.
In 2007, SunEdison installed a 1-megawatt solar system atop the city's Alvarado Water Treatment Plant.
City officials expect to reap as much as $15 million in savings over 20 years from the Balboa Park initiative. Part of the city's proposed deal with SunEdison involves the company rebating the city 1 cent per kilowatt-hour for greening projects. Another important feature is that the city would buy electricity from SunEdison at below-retail rates.