With Wednesday’s opening of its solar power facility in west Berkeley – the largest photovoltaic solar array in the Bay Area – Green Mountain Energy kicked off a drive to get people to switch to solar for their power needs.
At a dedication ceremony Thursday, Julie Blunden, GME’s western regional president, said electricity production is the largest source of industrial pollution.
The facility, located at 815 Heinz St., produces 100 kilowatts, or 120,000 volts of continuous power.
“Enough to power thousands of Christmas trees” said Dan Shugar, executive vice president of PowerLight, the Berkeley company that designed, manufactured and installed the 924-panel grid-connected solar electric system, which sits atop their manufacturing facility.
Janice Lin, PowerLight’s director of business development, said PowerLight bought photovolataic cells from AstroPower, an independent corporation based in Delaware, constructed the system and sold it to GPU Solar, Inc.
GPU, Inc., a registered public utility holding company based in New Jersey, is selling the 165,00 kilowatt hours produced by the facility each year to GME. Green Mountain will then re-sell the energy to their customers in California.
Howard Wenger, director for North America business at AstroPower noted that electricity makes our society today possible.
“If power was god’s greatest gift, solar is god’s second greatest gift,” he said.
Wenger said the cells used in the panels at the Green Mountain Solar facility would last up to 30 years.
The solar panels themselves are laid out on the roof in groups called strings, which are groupings of 22 panels. Stephen Smith of PowerLight said the panels, which can withstand hail balls up to an inch thick, can be monitored via a weather station mounted on the roof. The station monitors the roof temperature, wind speed, and the brightness of the sun. Customers can remotely access the information to make sure the system is working at its maximum capacity.
According to GME statistics, over the 30 year life of the panels, the facility will produce enough electricity to avoid the burning of 13,773 barrels of oil or 876 million cubic feet of natural gas.
This is the company’s second Northern California venture in cooperation with GPU Solar.
Lin said funding for the Green Mountain Solar facility was provided in part by the California Energy Commission’s renewable energy program, the City of Palo Alto’s renewable energy program, and the Department of Energy through the Solar Electric Power Association.
GME, which has a regional office in San Francisco, currently serves 100,000 customers in California, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.