A programme to build PV plants on public lands in California’s Bay Area, which has been described as involving an “unprecedented collaboration of government agencies”, could save taxpayers US$100 million, according to the county administrator unveiling it.

A launch event was hosted yesterday at a disused landfill site in Hayward, Alameda County, with attendees including Gina McCarthy, administrator at the US government’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Speaking at the event, McCarthy said collaboration was essential in combating climate change with “effective and innovative solutions”.

“That’s why I’m proud to celebrate the regional partnership today; it is a model for government agencies joining together in a project that is good for the environment, the regional economy and local taxpayers who will save millions of dollars through the use of renewable energy,” McCarthy went on to say.

The first project to be built under Alameda County’s Regional Renewable Energy Procurement Program’s (R-REP) first phase, will be undertaken by SunEdison at the site, West Winton Landfill. The 6.6MW plant will utilise around 19,000 PV modules on around 10 hectares of land.

A SunEdison spokeswoman told PV Tech yesterday that the company has been awarded another 18MW of projects under this first phase, and 3MW under a second phase to come.

Although launched by Alameda County’s local government, the R-REP will see installations deployed at 186 government facilities across the entire San Fancisco Bay Area of four counties. The counties pooled their resources together for the programme.

A statement issued by the office of Alameda County’s administrator Susan Muranishi, who also attended the launch celebration, claimed that the joint purchases and deployments could save taxpayers “over US$100 million in energy costs”. The R-REP hopes to help the counties achieve scale and reduce design, construction and development costs, with Muranishi’s office claiming that costs could be 45% lower than other large-scale renewable projects in the Bay Area. The R-REP could also generate as many as 839 jobs locally.

“This  project  is  nothing  short  of transformational, not just in how we are finding cost-effective and productive new uses for public facilities, but also for creating a model in which government agencies can partner to maximise limited resources and support the advancement of technologies designed to overcome the greatest threats to our environment,” Muranishi said at the event.

Repurposing landfill and other public lands that are considered to be unsuitable for most other uses for solar seems to have become a simpler way to avoid red tape and other barriers to development in other areas of the US and the wider world recently. The statement from Muranishi’s office said the Alameda County R-REP is “spearheading” an EPA push on such projects.

Elsewhere, utility Public Services and Enterprise Group (PSEG) installed 21.3MW of landfill-sited solar and connected it to the grid in New Jersey in February, while Japan, starved of suitable sites for large-scale ‘megasolar’ projects since the early waves of the feed-in tariff (FiT) driven boom, has turned to developing new projects on sites including landfill and disused golf courses.

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