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Marin Energy Authority receives new offers for renewable energy projects; cancels troubled solar project

The Marin Energy Authority has received 52 offers from 22 companies in response to its annual request for proposals for renewable energy projects.

The authority is seeking to contract for an additional 40 megawatts of electricity, but the offers it received totaled 673 megawatts. Most of the proposals – accounting for 72 percent of the prospective electricity – are for new projects.

“It’s really exciting,” said Dawn Weisz, the authority’s executive officer. “It shows that the renewable economy is alive and strong.”

Weisz said the authority will have plenty of green power in its energy mix despite its cancellation of a contract at the end of last year with North American Power Group for 15 megawatts of electricity. The project called for construction of a photovoltaic solar generator in Kern County.

“This one we needed to terminate because it wasn’t progressing according to the schedule laid out,” Weisz said. “It’s very common for a percentage of contracts not to come through development.”

Weisz said a $500,000 security deposit that North American Power Group was required to put up will compensate the authority for any expenses, such as the cost of purchasing replacement energy.

But Mike Ruffatto, president of North American Power Group, said, “We don’t think we were in default nor that it was an effective cancellation of the contract.”

Raffatto added, “We ran into an unexpected problem last fall that
may have led to some misunderstandings with MEA. We have corrected the issues. We have the financing, project permits, regulatory approvals and are ready to go ahead and complete the project.”

Weisz responded, “It has been canceled, and the required permits haven’t been achieved.” She said Kern County permitting officials told the authority last fall that North American Power Group lacked the proper permits and that it would take 12 to 18 months to secure them. Weisz said the permits that North American Power Group had at the time were valid only if the energy was used on-site.

Raffatto declined to comment on what caused the project to be delayed. It was supposed to have started generating power later this month. It is the first such contract the authority has canceled. Marin Clean Energy has contracts with 10 suppliers for 15 power projects.

When it launched in 2010, the authority pledged that no less than 25 percent of the electricity it sells to customers would come from renewable sources. Currently, more than 51 percent of the authority’s electricity comes from renewable sources. Renewable sources account for 20 percent of Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s energy.

The authority, which consists of the county of Marin, all 11 of Marin’s municipalities and the city of Richmond, is the first successful attempt in California to launch a new, public model for providing electricity to residents. It serves as the retail electricity provider for its 95,000 customers, who continue to also pay PG&E for transmission and distribution of their electricity.

The newly proposed projects range in size from 2 to 80 megawatts of solar photovoltaic, wind, geothermal and biogas generating capacity. That includes 52 megawatts of solar and 8 megawatts of landfill gas, enough clean energy to power approximately 22,500 homes per year. A substantial number of the proposals are for projects in Northern California and will help the authority achieve its commitment to increase the percentage of cost-competitive local, regional and in-state renewable energy.

Weisz said a preliminary review indicates energy prices are in line with market expectations. Key evaluative criteria for the offers include environmental impacts, local economic benefits, project location, qualifications of the project team, siting and permitting considerations, project financing plans, energy pricing and resource type.

Marin Clean Energy will begin initial contract negotiations after short-list notifications with the goal of developing draft power purchase agreements between March and May. Project approval and execution is scheduled for late May or early June.