The sun shines on low income customers in Santa Clara

We are excited to kick off our new Low Income Solar Grant Program, which providesSolar Panels Close Up income-qualified homeowners with a free solar photovoltaic (PV) system! This program is intended to help reduce overall utility costs for those customers who have an ongoing financial need. It also provides 100% renewable energy to their home, which contributes to the City of Santa Clara’s Climate Action Plan goals. The program will also help support the local solar contractors who have had their businesses impacted by the current health crisis.

Through this grant program, we will provide up to $10,000 per home to cover the cost of the solar system and permit application fees, with a maximum payment of $3.30 per watt, up to 3 kilowatts (CEC-AC). The program is designed to cover 100% of the cost of the PV system based on average system costs in our area. A 3 kilowatt system can cover 100% of the electricity consumed by the average Santa Clara customer over the course of the year.

All applicants will meet with a solar specialist on our staff to learn more about owning a solar system, as well as what changes they can expect on their utility bill under the Net Metering Program. Net Metering includes an annual “true-up” of energy produced versus energy consumed and the monthly bill is handled differently from other electric bills, as payment is only required annually. The Net Metering Program allows customers to “bank” power when they produce more than they consume and use it as a credit in months where they consume more than they produce.

As a part of the program, we will also help customers evaluate multiple bids to ensure they meet the program requirements before signing a contract. The grant is paid directly to the contractor or installer so customers do not have to spend any money out of pocket. Under this program, we anticipate installing at least 30 solar systems for low income homeowners in Santa Clara this year.

In order to be eligible for the grant, homeowners must be a current Financial Rate Assistance Program participant for over one year. Income eligibility documentation is required. Complete program requirements can be found on the Low Income Solar Grant Reservation Form.

Public utility workers are some of California’s unsung heroes of coronavirus crisis

The coronavirus pandemic has given us a new sense of appreciation for the men and Two Bucket trucks working on a Utility Polewomen who keep Santa Clara’s critical infrastructure running smoothly. From doctors and nurses to grocery-shelf stockers to parcel delivery personnel, the importance of these essential workers to our society and our economy cannot be overstated.

The men and women who work for California’s public power utilities belong in this special class of often unsung heroes. They are quite literally powering America through this crisis.

More than 49 million Americans get their electricity from not-for-profit, community-owned public power utilities like Silicon Valley Power.

We provide low-cost, reliable electricity to over 57,000 customers in Santa Clara and employ 198 people. Last year, we contributed $21 million dollars to the City’s general fund, which helps to provide essential services such as the police and fire departments.

In 1896, our community made a choice to operate under a public power model so that our utility would be responsive and accountable to the community first. Being a public power utility has allowed us to make critical investments in maintenance and improvement of our electrical grid to ensure its reliability, especially during times of crisis.

In 2005, we brought the Donald Von Raesfeld Power Plant online, providing 147 megawatts of in-town generation to serve Santa Clara customers. In 2013, we became the first electric utility in the U.S. to provide free city-wide outdoor internet access to all who live, work or play in Santa Clara. In 2020 and beyond, we remain committed to serving our community. Over the next five years, we will be installing up to 300 new electric vehicle (EV) charging stations at Santa Clara parks and other public spaces, with 77 of those stations being installed later this year.

During challenging times like the ones we now find ourselves in, the last thing members of our community should have to be concerned about is the safety and reliability of their electricity supply.

With more than 90 percent of the U.S. population confined to their homes, home energy use has predictably increased. It isn’t just your homes that depend upon public power. We also provide power to Intel, Nvidia, Applied Materials, Oracle, Kaiser Hospital, Santa Clara University, California’s Great America Theme Park, and countless restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, and retail establishments.

A low-cost, reliable supply of electricity is a blessing that is too often taken for granted.

The simple act of turning on a light switch or charging a smartphone is made possible by the engineers, technicians, lineworkers, and support staff that comprise America’s public power workforce. They do their jobs with care and professionalism, sometimes at great personal sacrifice and risk. They are a perfect example of ordinary people doing extraordinary things to help their communities and their country in times of need, and we appreciate all that our employees are doing to continue to provide you with reliable power and essential services today and every day.

Giving Back at the Holidays

The holidays can be very hard for families in need, especially those with young children Holiday Toy Drive 2019at home. Chris Divens, a Utility Electrician Technician here at Silicon Valley Power, feels fortunate for what he has and looks for ways to give back to the community. For the past 4 years, he has been organizing a holiday toy drive among employees at Silicon Valley Power through the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree Giving Program and the Christmas Toy and Joy program.

Under the Angel Tree Giving Program, a tree is placed inside our Electric Yard and decorated with gift tags showing the age and gender of a child in need of a gift, as well as an idea of what they would like to receive. Employees select a child to sponsor and return the tag with an unwrapped gift. For those who do not want to shop for a specific child, the Toy and Joy program allows employees to donate unwrapped presents for children ages twelve and under. These are used to create a store where families in need have an opportunity to “shop” for presents for their children at no cost. For some families, these toys are the only ones their children will receive for the holidays, so the donations are especially impactful.

Chris is thankful for the support of management, and for the help from his colleagues who contribute to making this effort a success each year. It truly is a team effort. Office Specialist Stephanie Entizne helps to get the word out to fellow employees by creating flyers to post around the departments and on the utility’s internal digital message board. Tony Valdez, an Electric Substation Maintenance Worker, helps to coordinate receipt, placement and pick up of the collection barrels. When Chris was out due to a motorcycle accident one year, Division Manager Greg Garcia stepped in to coordinate the effort so that it would continue in Chris’ absence.

Some of our employees grew up in homes where they didn’t have much and lived paycheck to paycheck, so they say that this effort is especially close to their hearts. It gives all of our employees an opportunity to join together to help those in need within our community and to help brighten the holidays for people who are struggling this year. Through these efforts, we have collected 440 toys and 540 pounds of food. We appreciate the effort that Chris puts into organizing what has become an annual tradition of holiday giving for Silicon Valley Power employees.

Belovida Santa Clara lights up senior housing with solar energy

Belovida Santa Clara, a part of Charities Housing’s management portfolio, is a 27 unitSolar panels on top of the roof senior housing development that opened in 2009 on approximately half an acre of land in Santa Clara. With a facility of that size, energy costs were high for Belovida Santa Clara. The non-profit organization wanted to install solar to lower its energy costs and reduce its carbon footprint, but didn’t have the funding.

Through our Neighborhood Solar Program we were able to award Belovida with a grant of $80,000 to install a solar system. Belovida selected Solar Technologies to install its 32kW solar system, which was completed in May 2019. The system now offsets the energy consumption of the building by about 66% per year!

Tony Rodriguez, Charities Housing facilities manager says, “Our mission is to develop, preserve and manage high quality affordable housing for low-income individuals and their families while creating developments that contribute positively to communities. With the extra savings from the solar system, it will allow us to continue our mission.” We are excited to have been able to play a part in helping the staff at Belovida significantly reduce its energy bill so that the savings can be reinvested in the community.

If you’re interested in learning about some of the other solar systems installed under this program, check out our blog post on the Pacific Autistic Center for Education and YMCA of Silicon Valley.

Keeping up with the PACE of solar energy

When Pacific Autism Center for Education (PACE) bought its building in 2007, the staff Kurt Ohlfs, Pacific Autism Center for Education executive director standing next to solar panels on their facility's roofknew right away it was a perfect place for solar panels. But knowing the cost of a solar system, they also knew they weren’t going to be able to afford it on their own.

In the summer months, PACE worked to save energy and money by adjusting their thermostat. As part of their program to enhance the lives of people impacted with autism, students learn how to adjust to the sensory environment in the building. Because of this, PACE staff had to make sure the air conditioner was comfortable for the students.

After PACE learned it was nominated for our Neighborhood Solar Program, the staff were excited that they might receive a solar system. Neighborhood Solar Program participants who pay into the program vote on the nominated organizations to decide where we spend the money. After the votes were counted and the recipients were selected, we contacted PACE to deliver the good news.  Under the program, the organization received an $80,000 grant to install solar at its facility. PACE was able to provide an additional $50,000 to install a much larger system. The grant brought their investment in a solar system down to just 3 years, making it a good investment of their money. PACE selected Solar Technologies to install their 47kW solar system, which was complete in May 2019. Without receiving the grant to assist with their big purchase, PACE would have never considered installing a system.

Kurt Ohlfs, Pacific Autism Center for Education executive director says, “It’s a real heart felt thank you to the folks at Silicon Valley Power who made this program happen, which opened up this incredible opportunity to non-profit programs. It’s a real full circle community effort.”

With the savings on its electric bill, PACE can reinvest back into its programs while doing its part to help the environment by using renewable energy.

If you’re interested in learning about some of the other solar systems installed under this program, check out our blog post on the YMCA of Silicon Valley.

learned it was nominated for our Neighborhood Solar Program, the staff were excited that they might receive a solar system. Neighborhood Solar Program participants who pay into the program vote on the nominated organizations to decide where we spend the money. After the votes were counted and the recipients were selected, we contacted PACE to deliver the good news.  Under the program, the organization received an $80,000 grant to install solar at its facility. PACE was able to provide an additional $50,000 to install a much larger system. The grant brought their investment in a solar system down to just 3 years, making it a good investment of their money. PACE selected Solar Technologies to install their 47kW solar system, which was complete in May 2019. Without receiving the grant to assist with their big purchase, PACE would have never considered installing a system.

Kurt Ohlfs, Pacific Autism Center for Education executive director says, “It’s a real heart felt thank you to the folks at Silicon Valley Power who made this program happen, which opened up this incredible opportunity to non-profit programs. It’s a real full circle community effort.”

With the savings on its electric bill, PACE can reinvest back into its programs while doing its part to help the environment by using renewable energy.

If you’re interested in learning about some of the other solar systems installed under this program, check out our blog post on the YMCA of Silicon Valley.

Empowering YMCA to save money with new solar system!

For more than 15 years, we have been assisting non-profits with installing solar systemsYMCA of Silicon Valley solar dashboard shows how it tracks its energy production in real-time. The graphic shows lifetime solar energy generated is 28,301 kWh, the impact of the production, which is equivalent to 48,922 miles in a car will not be driven, 2,251 gallons of gasoline will not be used, 333 mature trees will have grown, 21,868 pounds will not be burned and 15,370 pounds of garbage will be recycled. The solar system size is 30 kW.Image shows the current weather at 69 degrees Fahrenheit on August 21, 2019, the sunrise at 6:29 a.m., the sunset at 7:53 p.m., the local time at 10:09 a.m., the time at the site at 10:09 a.m. and it shows that the online dashboard was developed by SunPower. on their facilities through our Neighborhood Solar Program. Participating Santa Clara residents and businesses voluntarily donated $5-10 per month respectively through a charge on their electric bill. A small percentage of Santa Clara Green Power purchases were also donated. All funds were matched by our Public Benefits Program, allowing us to award more than $1 million dollars in grants to 13 non-profit organizations in Santa Clara. These grants enable the recipients to reduce their energy costs and use those savings to reinvest in the community.

Neighborhood Solar Program participants nominate potential recipients and then have the opportunity to vote on who receives a system. YMCA of Silicon Valley (YMCA) was selected, which turned out to be a “win” for the organization. Installing a solar system on its roof was always a goal for YMCA, but the organization was never able to justify the expense, as its first priority is to use its funding to benefit the community. With pure excitement and appreciation, YMCA was awarded $80,000 to install a solar system.

YMCA selected Solar Technologies to install a 30.5 kW DC solar system, and since the installation in March 2019, they have seen a 20 percent reduction on their energy bill. By tracking their production through an online tool powered by SunPower, YMCA can see real-time statistics such as how much power is being generated on a daily basis, the lifetime solar energy generated by the system and their impact to the greater environmental good.

David Fisch, YMCA of Silicon Valley vice president of property says, “YMCA of Silicon Valley really appreciates Silicon Valley Power’s assistance and the support provided along the way to install a solar system at no cost. It’s a great investment for the community, as those savings go back to programs for kids and adults who otherwise couldn’t afford to participate.”

YMCA has always prided itself with being an environmental steward and its building is a LEED gold certified green building. With their overall environmental efforts and the incredible savings from their new solar system, we were excited to partner with YMCA of Silicon Valley to reduce its carbon footprint and energy bill so it can use the savings to reinvest in health and wellness programs and educational and enrichment classes for the community.

Students learn to build electric circuits

We recently had the opportunity to partner with the Santa Clara Unified School District on its first annual STEAM Expo, which was held on May 18th at Mission College in Santa Clara. Our staff worked with Santa Clara students who were all excited to be learning new things and trying hands-on activities. Due to the poor weather, attendance was much higher than anticipated and the entire event had to be moved indoors, but everyone was prepared to handle the large crowd.

Over the course of the day, we were able to teach over 300 students how to build simple circuits to make a small holiday LED light bulb light up. We worked with the students to demonstrate, instruct, and brainstorm creative ways to make the simple circuits come to life. Occasionally when students ran into problems such as the copper tape ripping, they had the opportunity to learn how to splice it together, just like lineworkers splice wires in the field. The activity taught students about how electric systems work and we were excited to see them gain a new appreciation for what it takes to turn on a light bulb. We are proud to have sponsored this event and look forward to the STEAM Expo 2020.

A routine inspection is anything but routine

While doing a routine inspection of a manhole to locate empty conduits for a construction project, our crews found something unexpected. A skunk was trapped inside the manhole. It appears that it accessed the manhole by crawling into an empty conduit and following it to the manhole, but then did not know how to get back out. Luckily for the skunk, our crews came along and were able to rescue it. With the help of Silicon Valley Animal Control Authority (SVACA), they lowered a cage into the manhole and enticed the hungry skunk into the cage with a can of cat food. Once secure in the cage, the skunk was lifted out of the manhole and SVACA staff released the skunk nearby. We hope it learned its lesson and won’t be exploring any more empty conduits.

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The Power of Community

Public Power Wee LogoThere are many reasons to celebrate the Santa Clara community and having access to local, high quality electricity service is an important one. Every October, public power utilities, including Silicon Valley Power (SVP), celebrate Public Power Week to recognize over 2,000 utilities across the nation that are community-owned, not-for-profit organizations. Unlike other cities that have to rely on large investor-owned utilities, Santa Clara benefits from having a municipally-owned utility that cares about making our city a rewarding place to live. A local business model makes sure that customers can count on responsiveness and investments in community growth, as well as continued affordable rates ensured by our not-for-profit status.

In addition to being invested in the success of Santa Clara, our team is also a part of the community. Our local expertise allows us to create programs and services that are tailored to the needs of Santa Clara’s residents. Our initiatives include investments in free outdoor Wi-Fi throughout the city, student scholarships, and a Tool Lending Library to contribute to the growth of Santa Clara’s economy and a high quality of life for all residents.

As a public power entity, we are also able to make a direct impact on creating a sustainable future for Santa Clara. When the community began to show interest in renewable energy, we launched Santa Clara Green Power, a 100 percent green power option available to all residents and businesses. We also offer a full suite of energy efficiency rebates for residents and businesses, free home energy audits, and energy efficiency resources for our business customers to help our customers improve the comfort of their homes and facilities while saving energy and money.

Sponsoring and enjoying regular community events is another benefit to our local operations. Each year, we look forward to supporting events that allow our friends and neighbors to connect over local entertainment, such as the annual Fourth of July fireworks and the holiday tree lighting ceremony.

As your locally-owned utility and trusted energy advisor, we’re proud to play an integral role in the Santa Clara community!

Investing in Energy Careers for Santa Clara Students

2018 Scholarship Recipients
2018 Scholarship Recipients Ismael Laymoun (left) and Rafael Tolosa (right). (Not pictured: James Wang)

Once again, we have invested in some of our community’s brightest academic stars by granting $5,000 scholarships to Santa Clara students working toward careers in energy, electric utilities, and public power. Through the SVP Scholarship program, we also hope to increase interest in careers in the energy sector. As utilities face an aging workforce, we are excited to see local students who are inspired by different energy careers.

The 2018 winners are:

Ismael Laymoun is a recent Santa Clara High School graduate aiming for an engineering degree. He currently attends Mission College and enjoys hands-on science activities. Laymoun plans to develop energy-efficiency tools.

Rafael Tolosa is a recent graduate from Wilcox High School. He is interested in studying how the economy affects the energy sector. In college, he plans to study economics and finance. He has been active in local community groups, such as the Wilcox High School student body and rotary club.

James Wang is an engineering and environmental science student at Santa Clara University. Wang hopes to improve power systems and work on environmentally responsible engineering projects. In his free time, he helps local teachers develop engineering lessons.

We proudly honor these students who are committed to making a difference through energy careers. Recipients were presented with their scholarships at the City Council meeting on July 10, 2018.

We will begin accepting scholarship applications for the 2019-2020 school year starting on October 1, 2018. Students must live in Santa Clara or attend a school in Santa Clara to qualify. Watch for more details this fall.