Solar Santa Monica

With panoramic views of the ocean, over 86,000 make Santa Monica their home. On the edge of Los Angeles, Santa Monica is a desirable place to work and live. Residents want to keep it that way and make the city a model of sustainable living.

Santa Monica wants to be the nation’s first “Net Zero” city. Through energy efficiency, solar and other renewable energy, the city envisions generating clean energy that matches its total energy consumption.

Santa Monica currently has over 60 buildings with solar power. Other residential and commercial buildings are in the process of installing solar roofing. The Civic Center Parking Structure will have 250 kW of PV.

Solar Santa Monica formally launches a two year program on January 1, 2007. The voluntary program will start with 50 residential and commercial buildings. With the benefit of what is learned from these 50 projects, the program will be made available to all. The 50 buildings will include 30 to 35 residences, 5 to10 business and 5 municipal buildings.

Susan Munves estimated that over 20 years, $1.4 billion is the probable investment required to achieve being a “Net Zero” city. This is likely to offset a utility electric charges which would be higher than the $1.4 billion. The city will only invest a small part of that investment. The city’s primary role is facilitating and project management. The city will offer a number of “carrots and sticks” to encourage broad participation.

Stuart Cooley, Energy Efficiency Engineer for the city, explained that a detailed GIS database was developed of all the roofs of the city. Aerial photography was used to identify over 100MW of available rooftops on the 17,500 roofs in the city. With future solar PV technology, the roofs could represent even more solar energy potential.

To attract wide participation, the city will make efficiency and solar installation convenient. Packages are offered to residents that take advantage of pre-negotiated discounted energy efficient appliances, solar products, and simple financing. The Solar Santa Monica team will assist at all stages.

To prevent excess expensive solar power from being installed, the city offers energy audits and identifies solutions from efficient fluorescent lighting to energy saving appliances to cut usage. To save money, the city is prequalifing “preferred partners” to install efficiency upgrades. Prepackaged PV and solar thermal systems will be offered to residents with streamlined purchasing, permitting, installation and financing.

For commercial properties, Solar Santa Monica will provide comprehensive energy assessments for both the property owners and the leasing businesses. Proposals will be delivered with energy bill analysis, system specifications and pay-back analysis. Tax advantages will be detailed. Preferred financing sources will be offered.

Santa Monica’s 20 year plan would eliminate electricity produced by coal and natural gas power plants, and all the resulting greenhouse gas emissions.

Santa Monica goes beyond clean electricity to be a city that models clean transportation. Over 80% of the city’s 519 vehicles are either alt-fuel or electric. 100 of Santa Monica’s Big Bus fleet is LNG, which they state is 77% cleaner than diesel. Liquid NG provides a 300 mile range. 88 buses run on B20 biodiesel. Only about 20 older buses run on standard diesel.

Rick Sikes, Fleet Superintendent, showed me a wide range of clean vehicles. A total of 265 city vehicles run on natural gas, include heavy trucks and street sweepers. The city negotiated a favorable contract for CNG costing the equivalent of $2 per gallon. 21 city cars are hybrid.

5 of the city’s fleet of Toyota Priuses were converted by Quantum to run on pure hydrogen. The city has a Proton electrolyzer that splits water (H2O) into hydrogen and oxygen. The city buys renewable energy credits (REC) for the electricity that runs the electrolyzer, resulting in the hydrogen Priuses producing no green house gases, on a “well to wheels” basis.

Over the next few years the city fleet will get cleaner. Hydrogen can be mixed with CNG to make many of the existing vehicles run cleaner.

The city uses the right vehicles for the right applications. 27 electric vehicles including GEMs and electric scooters have ranges of fewer than 70 miles and do not exceed 25 miles per hour. For jobs like parking enforcement and quick commutes inside the city, the zero-emission vehicles are perfect, as are the 70-mile range hydrogen Priuses.

Beyond the city owner fleet, Santa Monica commuters are encouraged to burn less oil than the national average. Only 69% drive solo vs. 76% as the national average. In Santa Monica, 19% carpool, 7% bus, 3% walk and 2% bike to work. The city is making progress. In 1993, the average vehicle ridership was only 1.1; by 2005, it had jumped to 1.4. By 2010, the goal is 1.5.

Rideshare programs are encouraged. Financial incentives work. The City of Santa Monica implements a mandatory “Parking Cash Out” Program, which is a State law requiring employers of fifty or more employees who lease their parking and subsidize any part of their employee parking to offer their employees the opportunity to give up their parking space and rideshare to work instead. In return for giving up their parking space, the employer pays the employee the cost of the parking space. The city provides this for its only employees, achieving an AVR of almost 1.8.

Santa Monica has the potential to be a model of clean transportation, energy efficiency and renewable energy for other cities around the world.

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report. His firm OPTIMARK Inc. conducts fleet outreach, market intelligence, and cleantech market development. John serves on the Board of the California Hydrogen Business Council. He can be reached at John is the author of the upcoming book Save Gas, Save the Planet.

6 replies
  1. C. Scott Miller, EDP
    C. Scott Miller, EDP says:

    Santa Monica's recent Alt Car Expo showed several ways that drivers can contribute to a zero energy city by supporting the development and purchase of plug-in hybrids, biodiesel, and electric cars.James Woolsey gave an excellent presentation there that touted biofuels and PHEVs as two technologies most readily implementable toward solving the addiction to oil.I've written a review of the Expo and Woolsey's speech at my BIOoutput blog.

  2. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    While Santa Monica looks "green" on paper they have little follow through on existing infra structure. As an energy conscious resident of Santa Monica I can attest to the fact that it takes them months, or years to fix street lights, and other lights in parks, that are on BROAD DAYLIGHT.Whilst they are all a-flutter with green bragging rights the solar cells that are supposed to charge EVs at parking spaces adjoining city hall are so badly maintained that they probably don't work at all. The devil is in the details and Santa Monica would rather spend money on PR rather than fix things. As its ego grows so does its auto-centricity. Jeers…S

  3. Santa Monica Real Estate is Going Green
    Santa Monica Real Estate is Going Green says:

    I sell real estate in Santa Monica California and here is some info about what we are doing in our city– Santa Monica Real Estate will hopefully become some of the greenest in the country soon. I know that it may not be as legit as you and I would like but they are certainly trying. You have to admit it’s a rare city to put this kind of emphasis on green real estate construction etc.Here is some info on Santa Monica’s Green City initiatives for anyone who’s interested: # On the West Coast, Santa Monica wants to be the nation’s first “Net Zero” city. Through energy efficiency, solar and other renewable energy, the city envisions generating clean energy that matches its total energy consumption. This will help leave Santa Monica Real Estate cleaner and healthier for all.I have a bit more about this on my blog at my web-site: Santa Monica Real Estate

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