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.

Power to the Public

PPW 2017 GraphicIn Santa Clara, the people have the power. All electricity in the city is provided by our community-owned, not-for-profit entity – Silicon Valley Power (SVP). We are among the few fortunate communities that have retained this setup: Only 14 percent of all electricity customers in the U.S. are served by public power. The public, local-ownership model ensures that the utility and the community’s interests are aligned. Our team here at SVP knows that when we’re all on the same team, there are a lot of benefits.

LOW, STABLE RATES

Silicon Valley Power provides the lowest electric rates of any utility in California serving more than 5,000 customers. We set our rates based on our operating expenses because we are a not-for-profit entity. Our stable, low rates mean residents can save for their families and businesses can count on Santa Clara as great place to grow their operations. In contrast, investor-owned utilities (IOUs) like Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) are tied to shareholders whose interests may not match up with those of the communities they serve. The difference that makes? Our community saves an estimated over $100M in electric costs annually.

CUSTOM COMMUNITY SOLUTIONS

As a public power entity, we can provide programs and services tailored to Santa Clara’s unique needs. We have invested in long-term power contracts from reliable, sustainable power sources and in critical infrastructure that will provide benefits for years to come. Programs like our energy-efficiency rebates are designed with Santa Clara residents in mind. Our community initiatives, such as our local scholarships, Neighborhood Solar Program, Tool Lending Library, and sponsorships, move our city forward. Similarly, when our community began to show interest in renewable energy, we started offering Santa Clara Green Power, our award-winning 100 percent green power option. The program launched way back in 2004, long before most utilities in the region provided comparable offerings. Santa Clara Green Power has been ranked in National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) Top 10 Utility Green Power Programs for 11 consecutive years, has ranked fourth in the nation for its collective green power use by the EPA, and has offered green power rates significantly lower than those of surrounding communities.

LOCAL JOBS & EMPLOYEES

Operating locally also lets us create stable, rewarding jobs right here in Santa Clara. This means our customers are served by employees that know our city inside and out. So when you speak with an SVP team member on the phone, online, or in the community, you can feel confident that they are not only subject matter experts but Santa Clara experts. Learn more about some of our wonderful employees in our Meet Our Employees blog feature.

At Silicon Valley Power, we know that the local, not-for-profit utility structure we’ve had for more than 120 years is special and worth protecting. Cities around us that don’t have public power are starting to recognize its benefits and mimic parts of it. Some Bay Area cities are participating in Community Choice Aggregation (CCA), which procures power for a group of cities. This may better align power purchases with community interest in lowering carbon emissions, but infrastructure, programs, and customer service are still operated by an IOU. Only a community-owned and operated utility like Silicon Valley Power truly puts the power in the hands of the people and provides the full benefits of public power.

A Tradition of Community Support

DSC01189For the past twelve years, the SVP Scholarship Program has recognized exceptional students who live or go to school in Santa Clara and are pursuing promising careers in energy services, electric utilities, and other fields associated with the power industry.

Supporting local students benefits our community and helps foster an interest in the energy and utilities sectors in the next generation. We are thrilled to see the passion for energy shown by this year’s scholarship recipients and their inspired visions for making an impact on the evolving energy sector. Investing in their future will continue to attract more talented leaders to the utilities workforce – and maybe even to Silicon Valley Power!

Each scholarship winner this year received $5,000 to support their path to becoming a scientist, engineer, technician, electric utility field worker, or policymaker.

The 2017 winners are:

Christine Yee, chemistry student at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Yee, a Wilcox High School graduate, believes that development of more effective biofuels to meet future energy needs is an answer to global warming. She hopes to use her knowledge of chemistry to popularize the use of biofuels.

Tiffany Madruga, engineering student at Harvey Mudd College. In high school, Madruga, a Santa Clara resident, was a member of the robotics team where she mentored students during summer science camp. Her experiences at camp fostered her interest in engineering and sparked a new curiosity about solar power.

Tamara Pantic, international relations and political science student at the University of California, Berkeley. She aims to make an impact through initiatives that increase funding for clean energy research and lower the costs of renewable energy.

We are proud to invest in these three outstanding students and the energy leaders of the future. For more than 120 years, Silicon Valley Power has been an integral part of the Santa Clara community and we are excited to continue our tradition of supporting the community by helping local students enter this important field.

Starting Sept. 15, 2017, SVP will begin accepting applications for the 2018-2019 school year. Those interested in applying for a SVP scholarship or grant should complete and return the appropriate application by Dec. 15, 2017.