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How Santa Clara County Outsmarted PG&E

Reaping a solar windfall in the South Bay.

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Lots of counties in California have invested in solar installations, but only two are selling the power back to the grid—and Santa Clara is one of them (the other is Yolo).

Santa Clara County struck a deal with a private outfit to build solar arrays on public land that will generate 17.5 megawatts—equivalent to a quarter of the county’s consumption. When the privately owned installations come online next year, the county will buy their output for around 10 cents per kilowatt-hour, then turn around and sell that power to PG&E for around 15.5 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Utilities engineer Lin Ortega projects that the program will save nearly $41 million in electricity costs over a 25-year time frame.


Originally published in the June issue of San Francisco

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