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.

Silicon Valley Power recognized as a top utility in reliability

Safety and reliability are always our highest priorities. Our success in these two key RP3 Award 2019areas was recently recognized when we were designated as a Reliable Public Power Provider (RP3) at the Gold Level by the American Public Power Association during the Association’s annual Engineering & Operations Conference. This designation, which lasts for three years, acknowledges public power utilities that excel in four major areas of operation: reliability, safety, workforce development and system improvement. It is a high honor that reflects our continued commitment to our customers and employees, as well as our leadership in the Santa Clara community.

We are proud to have earned our place as a top-tier public power utility. We will continue to strive for the same standard of excellence in all areas of our organization. To further this mission, we recently developed our 2018 Strategic Plan. With help from our community, customers, City Council and City executive leadership, we outlined our objectives for the next 10 years. The plan paves the way for our team to continue providing safe, reliable service to our customers. It will also guide us as we develop innovative and sustainable solutions to any challenges we may face. Our Strategic Plan will enable the growth we need to continue standing out as a top-tier public power entity.

 

Thinking About Buying an EV? Here’s All You Need to Know About Programs and Tax Breaks.

Panorama of EVs

In the City of Santa Clara, we love electric vehicles (EVs). But we know that for first time buyers, navigating the available EV tax breaks and programs can be a head scratcher. Here are a few resources to tell you everything you need to know:

Federal: A nationwide EV tax credit is available for up to $7,500 if you purchase an EV. The tax credit amount varies based on the type of EV and its battery size. Federal EV credits will expire separately for each manufacturer after it sells 200,000 qualified vehicles, and some makes and models will also decrease in credit value over time before hitting this cap. The Department of Energy maintains a list so you can easily see what credits are available for the vehicle you choose to purchase.

California: Through the California Clean Vehicle Rebate Project, California residents are eligible to save up to $7,000 on an EV purchase. Unlike other states, California takes income into consideration with its tax credit, so low‑income residents are eligible for an increased rebate. Simply submit an application within 18 months of purchasing or leasing your EV to qualify.

Santa Clara: Once you have finalized the purchase of your EV, you can look to us for rebates on Level 2 EV chargers. We offer rebates of up to $750 per charger to help residents fund their EV charging equipment purchase. Rebates are available for residential homes, multifamily housing, schools and nonprofits. Visit our EV Charging Station Rebate page to learn more about the rebate and submit an application.

If you are thinking about buying or leasing an EV, we encourage you to purchase as soon as you can in order to receive the maximum tax credits and rebates possible. Visit our EV page to learn more about EVs, read our EV FAQs and view a map of EV charging stations throughout the city.

A Faster, Electric Commute

At Silicon Valley Power, we support projects that help the environment, grow the local economy and make our residents’ lives easier. Our most recent effort is the Caltrain Electrification Project, in partnership with Caltrain. This project will introduce new, electric trains to replace some of the current fossil fuel‑consuming trains that run between the San Francisco Fourth and King Street Station and the San Jose Tamien Station.

Not only will the new electric trains be more environmentally friendly, but they will also be faster, more reliable and quieter. Caltrain predicts that electric trains will lead to a 21 percent increase in ridership by 2040, with a corresponding reduction in the number of cars on the road, leading to a whopping 619,000 vehicle miles of reduced traffic congestion and 176,000 metric tons of reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. Electrification will undoubtedly be a giant leap forward for a commuter train system that started in 1863 and has undergone several evolutions before becoming the Caltrain that we know today in the 1980s.

According to Caltrain, the project is expected to generate $2.5 million in regional economic benefits, and the work is expected to be completed in 2022. As part of this project, our crews will be working near Santa Clara Caltrain tracks on the west side of the City through May 2019. Residents and businesses will be notified in advance of planned outages in their neighborhoods. Our current expectation is that we may need to access a small number of properties during these planned outages to complete the work. If this is the case, affected residents will receive notice ahead of time.

If you have questions about the Caltrain Electrification Project, visit calmod.org/resources, email Caltrain at calmod@caltrain.com or call them at 650-399-9659.

There’s No Place Like Home

While Ted Salazar’s previous jobs took him around the world to Europe and China, his Ted Salazar with SVP Logo Signfavorite place is Santa Clara, California. Born and raised in the Bay Area, Ted settled down in Santa Clara with his wife in 1998. He always wanted to work for Silicon Valley Power, and was ecstatic to join our team in 2018.

Working here at SVP is an ideal job for Ted because supporting the electric grid is a dream come true for him. As an SVP electric program manager, Ted works together with his fellow team members to maintain and update Santa Clara’s electric utility system. He loves that his job enables him to learn something new from his coworkers every day, who he considers experts in their respective fields.

Although Ted is new to the utility sector, his background in electrical engineering and electric systems makes him an asset to our team. “I have designed and managed hardware, software and firmware product systems my entire career,” explained Ted. He has led cross‑functional industrial product system design teams for the majority of his career, both in the United States and abroad. His past team together designed the future technology solutions that companies needed for next‑generation products, like distinctive water and electric meters, unique firewalls and the world’s smallest programmable logic controllers and sensors. These products are similar to the type of equipment utilities use every day.

Ted is a self‑proclaimed “geeky athlete”. He played baseball throughout his childhood and was even invited to try out for the Colorado Rockies. And today, when Ted is not at work, he loves to take advantage of the great activities his backyard has to offer. He enjoys making an annual 5.3‑mile, 2,490‑foot‑elevation biking trip up Montebello Road in Cupertino with coworkers, friends, and family bold enough to tackle the ride.

At the end of the day, Ted is a family man. When sharing some of his favorite moments with his family, Ted included, “my wedding day, the day my son first beat me in a running race, my middle daughter having the courage to drive the car and my youngest daughter teaching herself how to solve the Rubik’s Cube.” He appreciates that his role here at SVP allows him to spend as much time as possible with his family.