News and analysis about energy in California with an eye toward renewables.

Solar Plant in San Francisco's Foggiest Neighborhood Gets New Owner

Sunset Reservoir, at right, not far from the foggy Pacific | Photo: Google Maps

The North Carolina energy company Duke Energy Renewables has owned a 21-megawatt solar facility in the California desert since April. This week, the company announced it's added another California solar facility to its portfolio. But this one isn't in the desert: it's in one of the foggiest neighborhoods California has to offer.

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At 4.5 megawatts, the Sunset Reservoir Solar Power Project isn't that big even compared to the Highlander Solar facility near Twentynine Palms Duke bought in April, but it does have a superlative attached to it: It's the largest solar facility in San Francisco.

Less than a mile and a half from the Pacific Ocean in the notoriously overcast Outer Sunset neighborhood, the Sunset Reservoir's 28,000 (give or take) solar panels nonetheless provide an estimated 6,300 megawatt hours of power to San Francisco's grid, according to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. (That's enough power each year to drive a Nissan Leaf from the Sunset Reservoir to New York City and back 3,691 times.) The array sits atop a covered reservoir, thus displacing no wildlife habitat, at least directly. When it was completed, the facility more than tripled the city's solar power generating capacity.

And now it's been snapped up by Duke, the largest electric power holding company in the U.S. with in excess of $100 billion in assets.

Just a reminder that even in places renowned for their lack of constant sunshine, solar panels can produce enough power that a large company might take an interest in the profits they'll generate. Urban solar isn't just a good idea: it's economically feasible.

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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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