City of San Francisco - Solar Program

April 29, 2004


In November 2001, San Francisco voters approved Proposition B, which authorized the City to issue up to $100 million in revenue bonds to finance renewable energy projects - such as solar and wind power - and energy efficiency measures in city and county-owned buildings. At the same time, voters also approved Proposition H, which enables the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to issue revenue bonds to support renewable energy and energy efficiency developments in city, commercial, and residential buildings. The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) is taking the lead in placing solar panels on public buildings in San Francisco. The initative enjoyed broad supports, including that of the Chamber of Commerce, environmental organizations, the San Francisco Labor Council, women’s groups, the American Lung Association, church groups, African American groups, seniors groups, and 90% of the city’s elected officials.

On June 5, 2002 the San Francisco Board of Supervisors adopted a long-term energy plan - The Electricity Resource Plan - which includes a multi-year solar program. This plan is part of a strategic focus on renewable energy resources, and photovoltaic (PV) energy systems in particular, to help drive down PV prices, and develop highly efficient systems and installation methods. The plan's objectives for renewables are: 7 MW by 2004; 28 MW by 2008; 50 MW by 2012. The solar revenue bonds will help make this possible.

The City is examining a variety of ways to support or purchase renewable and distributed power, including:
- Full ownership, where the City would finance and own the facilities;
- Part ownership, where the City would take an equity position and partner with a developer;
- Build-own-operate-transfer arrangements, where a developer finances and operates the facility in return
for a power purchase agreement and then transfers ownership of the facility to the City at the end of the
power purchase agreement;
- Straight power purchase agreements, where the City signs an agreement to purchase power and the
developer continues to own and operate the system; or
- Facilitating private activity through permitting, incentives and technical assistance.

The first solar project to be completed is a 675-kW system on the roof of the Moscone Convention Center, San Francisco's premier meeting and exhibition facility situated in the heart of downtown. The Moscone Center project consists of two parts: solar power generation and energy efficiency. The solar installation will produce roughly 825,000-kilowatt hours on a yearly basis. The energy efficiency measures to be implemented at Moscone will save an estimated 4.5 million kWh annually. The $7.4 million dollar project received over $2 million in renewable energy and energy efficiency incentives from the state of California. Annual debt service for the 20-year bond is projected to be $429,000. Together, the solar installation and energy efficiency measures is projected to save more than $600,000 per year on electricity bills for an annual savings of more than $200,000.

Program Overview

Implementing Sector: Local
Category: Regulatory Policy
State: California
Incentive Type: Green Power Purchasing
Web Site:
Start Date:
Eligible Renewable/Other Technologies:
  • Solar Photovoltaics
Renewables % or Amount: 7 MW by 2004; 28 MW by 2008; 50 MW by 2012
Source: Installations on city buildings


Name: Peter O'Donnell
Address: 11 Grove Street
San Francisco CA 94102
Phone: (415) 355-3715
Email: Peter_O'
Name: Adam Browning
Organization: The Vote Solar Initiative
Address: 182 2nd Street, Suite 400
San Francisco CA 94105
Phone: (415) 874-7434

This information is sourced from DSIRE; the most comprehensive source of information on incentives and policies that support renewables and energy efficiency in the United States. Established in 1995, DSIRE is operated by the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center at N.C. State University.