Pacific Gas and Electric

FLEX ALERT for August 14, 2012

FLEX ALERT! The California Independent SystemOperator—or as I like to think of them, the magic elves that ensure our electric grid keeps running—has issued a Flex Alert for today, August 14th.  

In a Flex Alert we are asked to conserve power to make sure that there is enough to keep the AC on (screw the lights, all I care about in 109 is the AC!).  And, from someone who was without power from 5pm-1am on Friday I can say it’s not what you want to experience! So, what can you do at the office and at home?

Well, thanks to our friends at Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas and Electric Company we have plenty of no cost ways to conserve: 

NO-COST WAYS TO SAVE ENERGY AT WORK from SCE Energy Tips for Home and Office, R-647-V1-0910

Office Equipment

  • Turn off your screen savers. There is a common misconception that screen savers reduce a monitors energy use; they do not. Today’s screen savers actually waste power by keeping your computer active.
  • Configure your computer’s sleep mode to turn off your monitor after 10 minutes and your hard disks after 20 minutes.
  • Insure that coffee pots, radios or other equipment have been switched off when not in use.
  • At the end of the work day, turn off all equipment every night — especially monitors and printers. Monitors usually consume twice the electricity as CPUs.

Office Lighting

  • Turn off lights at your workstation and utilize the natural light coming from your office or building windows.
  • Use only the lights you need. Switch off lighting that is unnecessary.
  • Always turn off lights in unoccupied rooms or areas that are not used as frequently during work hours, such as conference rooms or break rooms.
  • Many areas may be overlit. Use multi-switching to turn off a portion of the lights, if possible.

Office Miscellaneous

  • Wear layered clothing so you can adjust to temperatures and stay comfortable.
  • Print two-sided whenever possible.


  • Set thermostat at 78 or turn off, if away
  • Cool with fans & draw drapes
  • Turn off unnecessary lights and appliances
  • Use major appliances in morning or late evening
 Thank you for doing your part to conserve energy!  

Sometimes The Right Solution Is A Green One

Replacing lights, beefing up insulation, weatherizing and other energy-efficiency measures can cut power consumption and costs. In fact, the nation's energy chief, Steven Chu, calls efficiency the "low-hanging fruit" of the clean-energy movement.

Commercial and residential buildings are responsible for 40 percent of the nation's energy consumption, according to this study. Even a Math-challenged Journalism grad like myself can see the potential for significant savings. How significant? Up to $33 billion per year by 2030.

Closer to home, officials in the city of Fresno crunched utility data and determined that a citywide reduction in energy use of 30 percent would save property owners a whopping $260 million. That windfall would then be spent in the community to help stimulate the economy. Here's more on the Fresno analysis.

What's in it for you? A free energy audit of my 1,400-square-foot, 18-year-old house in Clovis determined that $1,700 worth of upgrades (after rebates) would shave $50 per month off my electricity bill - which equates to a three-year payback. It's free money after that point. That's not a bad investment.

My audit was through the Home Energy Tune-Up offered by the city of Fresno in cooperation with Energy Upgrade California - and available in Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Kern counties. A list of recommended contractors who can do the work is provided.

A similar Energy Upgrade California program is available in the service areas of Pacific Gas & Electric and Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) through GreenerSolutions of Stockton.

Sometimes it costs money to make money. Energy efficiency is that way, but Hayden Logan, owner of GreenerSolutions, says the investment is well worth it. "You can see how much energy you can save by spending only a little money," he said.

Many property owners have to finance the energy improvements, but there are ways to do that. One of the most common is the CHF Residential Energy Retrofit Program, for which GreenerSolutions is an approved contractor. The program provides no-and low-interest loans (up to 3%) without requiring a home appraisal or a minimum credit score.

However, there are income requirements, which can be found here (some examples: $32,820-$87,500 in Fresno County; $39,240-$104,640 in San Joaquin County; and $45,060-$120,160 in Sacramento County.)

GreenerSolutions also offers financing through its own in-house program, or through energy-efficient mortgages (which are used in conjunction with purchases or refinancing).

Energy Upgrade California and similar programs offer an opportunity for property owners to get more green in their pocketbooks while living a greener lifestyle.

Photo of Fresno City Hall

Pacific Gas and Electric To Hook Up More Solar

Pacific Gas & Electric has released more information regarding three large solar farms that it plans to build in Solar Valley, oops, I mean the San Joaquin Valley. It turns out the solar arrays will be built near Five Points and Helm, according to this story in The Fresno Bee.

The projects will generated a combined 50 megawatts of electricity, which PG&E says is enough to power 15,000 homes, and is the first big push by the utility to own and operate facilities, according to Tim Sheehan's story in The Bee.

We here at the San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization believe that the region from Stockton to the Grapevine is an ideal spot for solar energy. We have ample sun, access to the power grid and lots of former farmland that is no longer productive - and flat.

Mike Jones of PG&E agrees. Sheehan quotes the power-generation manager as saying this, "The Central Valley holds tremendous potential as a source of clean energy for California."

And it comes at an opportune time. The solar sites will provide about 500,000 hours of paid work when the unemployment rate in Fresno County is about 17%. It also comes when utility companies are encouraged to increase their amount of green power to 33% by 2020.

The PG&E plants follow a similar one by Southern California Edison in Porterville. Budgets are an issue of course, but California has shown its willingness to embrace solar and other renewables. Maybe this is just a precursor of what could come.

Utility To Operate Big Solar Farm Near Fresno

In the same week that Southern California Edison flipped the switch on its new 5 million watt solar project near Porterville, it was announced that a neighboring utility will build three solar plants near Fresno.

The three projects, which are part of Pacific Gas and Electric's commitment to increase solar power over the next five years, will generate a total of 50 megawatts of electricity - enough for thousands of houses.

Solon Corp will start constructing a 160-acre solar plant in April for PG&E somewhere "in the vicinity of Fresno," Solon officials said in this press release. At 15 megawatts, it could supply power for up to 15,000 homes when finished in October.

The system will be a cluster concept with fixed-tilt mounting, and will feature remote control and monitoring.

Not to be outdone, Cupertino Electric Inc. of San Francisco will build a 15 megawatt and a 20-megawatt plant for PG&E, also near Fresno, according to the Central Valley Business Times.

The proposed arrays are more examples of the San Joaquin Valley's emerging solar-energy industry. With vast expanses of open and flat land, easy access to the power grid and ample sun, the region from Stockton to the base of the Grapevine could be the new "Solar Valley," according to officials at University of California, Merced, which conducts solar research.

The San Joaquin Valley is one of the largest agriculture regions in the world. Many observers think think solar could be an additional cash crop on marginal or poor farmland.

photo by

Solar project under construction near Avenal

One of the largest proposed solar photovoltaic facilities in California is getting under construction near Avenal in Kings County.

When operating at full capacity - possibly as early as 2011 - the project, which is actually three separate components known as Avenal Park, Sun City and Sand Drag, will generate 45 megawatts of power, enough to power at least 36,000 homes, according to developers Eurus Energy America and NRG Solar.

The electricity produced by thin film solar panels will be sold to Pacific Gas & Electric, and advance the state's objective of achieving 33% renewable power generation by 2020. "The Avenal projects are just the first of many utility-scale PV solar projects that we expect to be developing, building and owning in the state of California," said Mark E. Anderson, president of Eurus Energy America in San Diego.

About 200 people are expected to be employed during the construction process, according to Sierra2thesea, an online news blog that covers the Central Coast and San Joaquin Valley. The project is one of a long line of solar proposals for the Valley, which has ample sun resources and vacant land, and is ideally suited for an emerging solar industry.

(Photo of NRG CEO Dave Crane by