Want to buy an electric car, but concerned that the power from your plug might be coming from a coal-fired plant? Consider moving to San Francisco, which is aiming to power itself entirely with renewables by 2020. The move, announced by outgoing mayor Gavin Newsom, will rely in part on a $250,000 grant from the Sidney Frank Foundation to analyze how to power the city’s 950 MW peak energy use with only renewable energy (including hydro power as a renewable).
So can the city by the Bay do it–or is this a civic form of greenwashing?
Last week, the city’s Sunset Reservoir Solar Project, a 5 MW solar photovoltaic system on top of the city’s largest reservoir, was completed. That project alone is tripling San Francisco’s municipal solar generation. But it’s far from enough. According to the New York Times, the city also produces 3.5 MW of biogas and 10 MW of distributed solar, relying on the Hetch Hetchy Water and Power system (which supplies hydropower for the city’s municipal needs) and PG&E’s power portfolio for the rest.
If San Francisco’s power is to be come 100% renewable, PG&E will have to ramp up its renewables portfolio. The utility currently produces 16% of its energy from renewable sources, and has plans to expand. San Francisco, for its part, plans to launch a 1 MW to 3 MW wave energy project in 2011. If that goes well, the city anticipates building a larger 30 MW to 100 MW wave project.
That still won’t be enough to power the city, but San Francisco is optimistic. After all, the city’s goal of achieving 75 percent waste diversion by 2010 once seemed like a pipe dream, too. Now San Francisco is recycling 77 percent of its waste.