UCSF Sustainability Stories

Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact, December 2013

San Francisco SunShares Brings Affordable Solar Energy Solution to UCSF Employees

SolarThe University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) is proud of its reputation for being a regional leader in climate mitigation and renewable energy deployment.  As such, UCSF is always looking for opportunities to engage the UCSF community in making progress toward its climate and energy goals. Taking advantage of optimal conditions for solar energy systems in the San Francisco Bay Area and significantly lower pricing for PV solar systems, UCSF decided to participate in the SunShares program.

Organized by the City and County of San Francisco (CCSF) and the Business Council on Climate Change, SunShares offered an opportunity for employees to participate in a solar group-buy.  Five of the largest employers in the Bay Area participated, including UCSF, Blue Shield of California, Genentech, and Pacific Gas and Electric. The program provided UCSF employees with a reduced price for solar photovoltaic projects. Given the distribution of employees across the Bay Area, the program was not limited to employees who lived in San Francisco, but covered the nine Bay Area counties.

The San Francisco SunShares Opportunity

Solar power holds enormous potential for reducing carbon emissions. SunShares is a unique solar group-buy program designed to help communities overcome common challenges by providing education, pooling buying power, and guiding program participants through the upgrade and installation process. By aggregating demand through collaborative procurement, SunShares acts as a group purchasing program for solar energy improvements, enabling participant groups to receive a 20 percent discount from REC Solar, the PV provider selected by a SunShares evaluation committee.  In addition, REC Solar was able to offer third-party ownership financing (via a Power Purchase Agreement / PPA) through their partnership with SunRun.

Danielle Murray, City and County of SF Renewable Energy Program Manager, explained, “Most people want to go solar and ‘do their part,’ but navigating the world of solar installations can be time consuming and complex, which is why participation in SunShares generates so much involvement from participants interested in reducing utility bills and producing clean energy. We are thrilled to have implemented San Francisco SunShares in partnership with UCSF and the other participating employers. The program helps achieve not only the sustainability goals of these organizations but the goals of San Francisco and communities throughout the Bay Area.”

Solar PV Installations

The San Francisco SunShares program proved immensely successful, with 863 people registering interest in receiving a solar PV proposal for their home. Overall, 104 solar PV contracts were signed through the program, for a total contracted capacity of 467.8 kilowatts (kW).  Contracts skewed toward third party ownership PPAs, with 65 contracts, while 39 participants chose to purchase systems outright.  UCSF had 12 contracts for a total of 68.98 kW.  Seven of the UCSF projects are located in the City of San Francisco with the remaining in Novato, San Rafael, Healdsburg, Berkeley and Napa (1 each).  The most recent contract, and biggest system to date is a 24.4 kW residential system in Napa on the home of a UCSF employee.

A summary of the projects installed by UCSF employees includes:

Total kilowatts installed through SF SunShares: 68.9 kW
Total kilowatt hours produced over 20-year life of systems: 1,968,818 kWh
C02 Equivalent = 1,389 Metric tons or 3,062,440 pounds of CO2 Equivalent

This is equal to:
• Annual GHG emissions from 289 passenger vehicles
• Reducing CO2 emissions from the electricity use of 191 homes for one year
• CO2 emissions from 3,230 barrels of oil consumed
• Carbon sequestered by 35,618 tree seedlings grown for 10 years
• Carbon sequestered annually by 1,139 acres of U.S. Forests

UCSF Community LivingGreen at Home

“We are always looking for new ways to help faculty, staff, and students get involved in our sustainability initiatives. San Francisco SunShares helped us achieve that goal,” explained Gail Lee, UCSF’s Sustainability Manager.

“I’m a finance person, so the cost savings just stood out to me.  I’ve seen my PG&E bills continue to increase and when UCSF announced a deal with REC Solar, I had to look further into it.  After REC gave me the cost benefit analysis, I did my own due diligence and decided to go forward with installing solar at my house,” explained Ricky Yee, EMF Financial Reporting Supervisor at UCSF Controller’s Office.  Yee was struck with how simple the consultation process was.  “Most of the data can be gathered through satellite pictures with sun, shade, area already factored in,” he said. 

Sandra Avila, Manager, HR Investigations Unit, also recently put in her system.  “I’ve always been interested in pursuing solar and this was the right opportunity. I like to do what I can to help the environment,” explained Avila.  She found the consultation process great.  “One of the benefits of going through this program is that they take care of everything for you.”