Alameda helps rental owner go solar

ALAMEDA COUNTY, CALIFORNIA - Alameda County, which claims to be the most solar-powered local government in the nation, will soon be even greener with another major solar array - but this time with a new twist.

The county, which has solar panels on nine county-owned buildings, is expanding its clean-energy frontier by working with a private developer to add solar to a building that it rents.

"This project breaks new ground," said Alan Dones, managing partner of the Oakland development firm Strategic Urban Development Alliance, which is paying for the $2.6 million array being installed on a four-story building housing a county Social Services Agency office at 2000 San Pablo Ave.

The 16,000-square-foot, 198-kilowatt array - expected to be completed Dec. 16 - drew local political leaders for a celebration ceremony at the site.

County Supervisor Keith Carson praised the accomplishment of Dones and his firm: "Thank you so much, Alan, for taking us to yet another chapter in this journey of making sure we do our best to preserve our delicate balance here on this planet."

The firm, also the developer of the 2-year-old building, planned on the solar array from the start as part of an overall green-building design, Dones said. The array will supply a third of the building's power, he said.

He added that he believes it's the largest solar-array on an office building in Oakland. A larger, 372-kilowatt solar system was installed on the nearby Oakland Ice Center in October 2005.

Dones also said he is gratified by the central role played by minority-owned enterprises in the project.

"This project is very revolutionary, evolutionary, transitional in the fact that it's probably one of he biggest contractual opportunities ever granted anywhere in the country to an African American team," Dones told the gathering.

Dones, Carson and others gave special credit to Dones' father, Ray Dones, a prominent Oakland contractor and former president of the National Association of Minority Contractors, who has long pushed for "zero-energy" buildings in Oakland and was present at the dedication.

The 3.1 megawatts of solar equipment currently installed on Alameda County government buildings - including a 1.18-megawatt array on the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin - is the highest total for any local government in the U.S., according to Matthew Muniz, the county's energy program manager.

Altogether Alameda County is home to approximately 1,700 solar installations on government and commercial buildings and private homes, generating about 20 megawatts and making the county the Bay Area leader in solar power, said PG&E spokesman Keely Wachs. It has added 7 megawatts so far this year, more than double the amount for all of 2006, Wachs said.

Sonoma County ranks second, with about 15.6 megawatts of generating capacity from approximately 1,600 sites, followed closely by Santa Clara County with around 15.5 megawatts at about 2,200 sites, Wachs said.

The $2.6 million solar array on the county's Social Services Agency building will be financed with a rebate, tax credits and loans to be repaid with energy savings, Dones said. The PG&E rebate will be $729,000, Wachs said.


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