SMC Converts 1st Government Building To Solar Power

BRISBANE, CA — Squinting against the afternoon sun, officials from the city of Brisbane and their power provider, Peninsula Clean Energy, cut the ribbon on the first of twelve government buildings across San Mateo County converting to solar power.

Photos were taken under photovoltaic solar panels at the city-owned event space, the Mission Blue Center, to celebrate California’s Clean Air Day.

Solar and Storage on Public Buildings is a local program endorsed by the Coalition for Clean Air, a nonprofit environmental group. It is administered by Peninsula Clean Energy (PCE), the official energy service provider for San Mateo County.

PCE buys power from solar and wind farms in less populated counties, like Kern, Sonoma and Merced Counties, and delivers it to San Mateo residents through the pre-existing power grid.

Although residents get their monthly bills from Pacific Gas & Electric, the power itself comes from a collection of alternative green energy sources, often at a lower rate.

The cities in San Mateo formed the public agency by vote, and each city is represented on the PCE board. The agency helps cities navigate the design and installation of solar systems on public buildings, like the event space in Brisbane. They also help cities obtain tax credits through the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, which provides up to 30% tax incentives for clean energy projects.

“Think of us as the chefs in a kitchen,” said PCE’s Gwen Rose. “We buy the ingredients, we cook the meal, we make sure it’s a nice balanced meal, very healthy farm to table sort of thing, and then PG&E is the waiter. They deliver the food and make sure that you get the check at the end.”

The solar panels on top of Brisbane’s Mission Blue Center are made by Maxeon. This Singapore-based company sells what engineers consider the highest-performing solar panel on the market.

“We are looking for a U.S. supplier, but that’s really difficult,” said Brandon Bradford with InterMountain Electric Company, the engineering firm that installs the solar systems. He thinks finding a domestic supplier is going to be more challenging in the future for new construction.

“California new building code for 2022 says that basically everything from this year on, any new commercial building, must have a calculated bare minimum of solar and battery power,” Bradford said. “There used to be more solar panels manufactured in the states, but they are harder to find.”

Peninsula Clean Energy has plans to install 40 more solar systems on public buildings throughout San Mateo County.

Story Ruth Dusseault, Bay City News.

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