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.

Mapping his path to Silicon Valley Power

Maintaining accurate utility maps and records is a crucial task. It is a key ingredient inRiad Holiday Photo for Blog helping us ensure system reliability and resiliency. This is one of the fields that Riad Sleiman specializes in, and why we were glad to bring him onto our team in fall 2019.

Riad joined our team after spending the past 14 years at Burbank Water and Power (BWP). He oversaw a 360-degree view of everything in the transmission and distribution side of electrical engineering at BWP. Ultimately, he was responsible for modernizing BWP’s engineering with smart grid analytics, bringing it into the 21st century.

“Utilities now have the technology needed to modernize records and integrate smart data feeds. This allows us to proactively identify any areas of concern before a problem could arise,” Riad explained. “If utilities have bad information, it will lead to bad results.”

After spending his first four years learning the ins and outs of transmission and distribution at BWP, Riad had the opportunity to become the senior member of his team. He became responsible for hiring a new generation of employees, teaching them everything he had learned over the previous few years and writing up processes to improve efficiency.

Now, as a principal electric utility engineer with us, Riad manages the electric maps and records group. He and his team document, update and maintain Santa Clara’s electric system assets, ensuring that all of our system records are fully up to date.

“I am excited to take what I had learned in Burbank and bring that knowledge to SVP,” Riad says. “I was ready for a new challenge in a new city.”

In his spare time, Riad also likes to use his technology skills to build robots for fun. He is currently designing and building a robot that is able to stand like a human, take in the tones and beat of any song, and then dance to the rhythm.

Riad is trying to get his daughter into robotics, too. He’d love for her to have fun with computers, just like her dad!

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.

Turning savings into more savings at the North Valley Baptist Church

Installing energy-efficiency upgrades can create easy savings for businesses. One of ourNorth Valey Baptist staff member stands in auditorium under new lighting customers, North Valley Baptist Church, proactively uses the financial savings it has received from efficiency improvements to invest in additional energy-efficiency upgrades. This continuous reinvestment, along with our rebates, helps the church to continue lowering its energy bills while actively reducing its carbon footprint.

The North Valley Baptist Church has been a part of the Santa Clara community since 1975. Two years later, the church also founded the North Valley Baptist Schools. Together they have received over $23,000 from our rebate programs and achieved over 100,000 kWh in savings.

The first efficiency upgrade occurred in the middle school gymnasium in 2012. High-intensity discharge lighting fixtures were replaced with more efficient, high-output fluorescent T5 fixtures. The school utilized the lighting rebate and saved $1,200 on the installation. This project saves the school nearly 10,000 kWh annually and paid for itself in less than two years.

Using the financial savings from its 2012 lighting upgrade, the North Valley Baptist Church has gone on to install a number of additional efficiency upgrades throughout the church and schools. These projects have primarily involved lighting upgrades. The church has installed LED lighting in the sanctuary, bible school halls and classrooms, gymnasiums, the worship auditorium and dormitory hallways. LED lighting is one of the most energy-efficient lighting options. LED bulbs are up to seven times more efficient and last 25 times longer than traditional light bulbs. The church’s savings on these projects are typically very quick, with some even paying for themselves in less than one year after installation.

The church has also used its financial savings to install high-efficiency packaged terminal air conditioners (PTAC) in school dormitories. PTACs are oftentimes found in large multiunit buildings like hotels or apartment complexes because they are efficient, quiet and easy to maintain. The PTACs will more than pay for the cost of the units over their lifetime.

In 2019 alone, the North Valley Baptist Church and its schools have installed four separate lighting upgrades. Financial savings from these projects will allow them to continue actively investing in efficiency upgrades and reduce their utility bills for years to come.

A Love for Problem-Solving

Justin Webb loves to figure things out.Silicon Valley Power Generation technician wearing a hard hat with the DVR power plant in the background

After earning a degree in industrial electronics, Justin soon put his problem-solving skills to the test while working at Loma Linda University Medical Center as a central utilities plant technician. One day, a damaged power pole took down the power plant that provided electricity and heat to the hospital. To make matters worse, the black-start generator for the plant failed to start. Justin had four hours to restore steam for heating before hospital staff would have to evacuate patients for health and safety concerns. Thinking on his feet, he was able to jump-start the black-start generator using the engine from a forklift and electric scooters that had 12-volt batteries. He remained calm under pressure and was able to restore power to the generator, plant and hospital.

Justin’s love for problem solving is what attracted him to a career in utilities. After spending five years at Loma Linda University, Justin worked at Calpine, a wholesale electric company, before joining our team at Silicon Valley Power. He has spent the past three years as an electric utility generation technician. In this role, Justin flexes his problem-solving muscles by ensuring that all systems at the Donald Von Raesfeld (DVR) Power Plant are operating correctly both physically and chemically.

“I really enjoy the troubleshooting aspect of my job,” Justin said. “It’s so fulfilling and satisfying when I am able to quickly identify and solve anything I may discover during my inspections.”

Justin also regulates the electrical generation at the DVR power plant, raising and lowering the output of the gas turbines based on demand from customers. He is part of a team of 17 people who all find satisfaction from problem-solving at work. “My team is so knowledgeable, cooperative and fun to be around,” Justin said. “I couldn’t think of a better crew to work with!”

On the weekends, Justin can be found in the outdoors with his wife and two young sons. They enjoy traveling the Sierras for hiking and camping, as well as spending hot summer weekends at the beach. Justin and his wife are currently training to hike Half Dome in Yosemite in the spring. After completing Half Dome, their next goal is to climb Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States.

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 job that was meant to be

Craig Lindquist has always enjoyed hands‑on work. He spent his early life dreaming of aCraig Lindquist photo skiing career that would both allow him to work outdoors and give him a sense of excitement. One day, some friends from his volunteer firefighting team told him about their jobs working as lineworkers. Craig was immediately intrigued and knew that this was what he was meant to do.

He began his tenure in the utility industry at PG&E working in its gas department, but he soon switched over to the electric side of the business to pursue his dream of becoming a lineworker. Once his mentor left PG&E for a job with us at Silicon Valley Power, he started to research our organization.

Craig loved what he found – he was amazed that we are able to provide a significant amount of electricity to major Silicon Valley companies while maintaining the feel of a small, family‑owned business. “Silicon Valley Power is the type of family environment I was looking for in a job,” reflected Craig. “I wanted to do the job that I loved while working for an organization that still feels like a ‘mom and pop shop’.” It was obvious to Craig that joining our team would be his next career move.

Craig has now been a part of our utility for 16 years. He currently works as a crew foreman, traveling to major job sites to coordinate with contractors and our crews to keep projects running smoothly and efficiently. In this role, Craig is also responsible for overseeing the safety of 30 lineworkers each day. He appreciates the fact that his job lets him serve as a leader and mentor to the younger team members, but occasionally still elects to climb electric poles himself to feel that same sense of excitement he was looking for when he first joined the industry.

Craig’s adventurous, outdoorsy tendencies extend outside of work. “I love to golf, go to the beach and ski. I also ride motorcycles – I am in the process of building a motorcycle that is going to be in a show, and I hope to take it to race at the Bonneville Salt Flats Race Track [in Utah].” His sense of adventure has also taken him around the world to South America and Europe, with Japan and New Zealand next on his travel bucket list.