Harbor commissioners on Tuesday met with the firm that will finance, build and maintain a 1.5 megawatt solar system they hope will save the port money on its power bill.
Neil Zoller, president of Costa Mesa-based American Diversified Energy, and Mike Jones, the firm’s vice president of engineering and geology, told the Crescent City Harbor commission that the port could save up to $1.2 million in electricity costs over the life of the contract.
The proposed project consists of four phases and includes construction of rooftop solar panels on several harbor buildings as well as covered carports and new storage facilities with solar panels on them. American Diversified Energy would hire and train eight to 12 full time workers from the Crescent City area, Jones said.
“Those same workers will stay on the project until the very end,” Jones saidy.
The firm expects to begin construction on the first phase of the project in June, Jones said. All four phases are expected to be completed in 2019, he said.
The presentation from American Diversified Energy came about three months after the harbor district approved a 25-year power purchase agreement with Florida-based Renewable Energy Capital for installing the solar panel system. According to Zoller, REC managing member Alex Lemus is the developer for the solar system, American Diversified Energy finances, designs and builds the project.
American Diversified Energy has focused on alternative energy projects for about five years and has experience in geothermal, compressed natural gas and solar energy, according to Zoller.
Phase one of the project will include installing 492 panels on the Eureka Fisheries building and 616 panels on the Albers Seafood building. According to Jones, the 387 kilowatts generated by those panels would be able to power the harbor’s RV park, Redwood Harbor Village.
Deputy Harbormaster Lane Tavasci said the RV park’s energy costs are about $6,500 a month. The power generated by phase one of the solar project would also be able to power the tiny homes the port plans to build near Redwood Harbor Village.
Jones said American Diversified Energy the preliminary engineer drawings on the first phase of the project should be finalized next week. The firm will then submit them to Pacific Power and Light for an interconnection application to connect the solar panels to the utility’s energy grid. That process will take about 60 to 90 days, Jones said.
The second phase of the project will include the construction of three carports near the Harbor District Office and the inner boat basin. These carports will have a minimum clearance of 16 feet, according to Jones, and a maximum clearance of 20 feet — enough to house a semi truck.
The second phase of the project will generate about 613 kilowatts, Jones said. The west array of carports would power Citizens Dock and the seafood facilities, he said.
Tavasci said the energy costs from Citizens Dock and the seafood buyers there, which includes refrigeration facilities, is about $3,000 a month.
Phase 3 of the solar project would include installing panels near the Recargo electric vehicle charging stations that are slated to go in behind Fisherman’s Restaurant, Jones said. American Diversified Energy has been in discussion with Recargo to have the solar panels feed the electric vehicle charging stations, Jones said.
The third phase of the project also includes installing 198 panels on top of solar carports, which would supply energy to the ice plant and other facilities, and roof-mounted arrays on top of the Fashion Blacksmith building, Jones said.
Phase 4 of the project calls for the construction of 30,000 square feet of storage facilities, which would house 914 solar panels capable of producing 314 kilowatts, Jones said. American Diversified Energy would build the storage units, finance the construction and rent them, he said.
The energy generated by these panels will power a future RV park the harbor plans to operate, Jones said.
“This is going to be a long term relationship,” he told commissioners. “We find it pleasant working with you so far. We’ll own and operate the system and pass on the savings to you guys.”
American Diversified Energy will also monitor the system 24-7 and deploy troubleshooters immediately to fix any problems that arise.
The harbor district has been exploring alternative energy as a way to save on its electricity costs for more than two years. In early 2016 it signed a memorandum of understanding with Trinergy LLC, but the Florida-based company proved difficult to work with. In November 2016 commissioners gave port staff authorization to begin working with REC.
REC has been in business for more than seven years and has a list of completed projects under its belt. Those projects include a solar installation at the Humboldt Bay Harbor District facility in Eureka, although American Diversified Energy was not involved.
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