ENORMOUS SOLAR SYSTEM
DEDICATED IN CALIFORNIA
With the throwing of a ceremonial "switch" turning on one of the largest Distributed Generation power systems of its kind, several major real estate ownersj oined with power pioneers such as Los Angeles-based Real Energy and DTE Energy of Detroit in the growing movement to provide a near-term hedge andlong-term relief to the looming energy crisis in California and other U.S. markets.
In a ceremony featuring three innovative on-site power technologies, representatives of real estate industry powerhouses Arden Realty, CALPERS and RREEF led a group of public and private officials in switching on the largest private commercial solar power system in the Western Hemisphere.
The solar powered installation -- almost an acre of advanced photovoltaic panels -- is in operation on the roof of the 110,000 square-foot, three-story City Centre office building owned by Los Angeles-based Arden Realty, Inc. (NYSE:ARI) in Fountain Valley, CA. The Orange County solar system was one of two unveiled. Carlsbad Pointe, a 320,000 square-foot industrial building in Carlsbad, CA owned by CalWest Industrial Properties, a joint venture of CalPERS and SanFrancisco-based RREEF, was dedicated as well. The two installations are the realization of the first of a series of anticipated Distributed Generation systems createdby Real Energy Corp., a self-styled power company for the New Economy that is working with the real estate industry to create on-site power alternatives.RealEnergy will "sell" the power to the building owners.
"The real estate industry -- the bricks-and-mortar home of the U.S. economy -- is waking up to the deteriorating reliability and increasing cost of the deregulated power industry," said Dan Cashdan, Chairman of Real Energy. "Distributed Generation systems offering reliable, high quality, economical energy are an extremely attractive hedge against a repeat of the near-disasters of last summer. And they're a clean source, offsetting the creation of tons of toxins produced by old central power plants."
Distributed Generation -- essentially on-site energy systems such as solar, microturbine, natural gas reciprocating engines, fuel cell and other "green" power alternatives -- is deployed to generate electricity and heat that displaces power from central plants that otherwise would be consumed during peak daytime hours.Peak-hour electricity from the nation's power grid is the most expensive, and most vulnerable to spikes, surges, brownouts and blackouts.
Reliable Power: New Perk of Premium Real Estate
"Given the brownouts in San Diego, San Francisco, Chicago and else where last summer, buildings with reliable power will increasingly be seen as premium,preferred locations," said Richard Ziman, Chairman and CEO of Arden Realty, the largest commercial real estate landlord in Southern California. "Distributed Generation supports the environment and our tenants. Companies dependent on their computer systems or who have global 24/7 operations increasingly are recognizing they are at risk to a serious or even fatal business interruption tied to poor quality power."
This year, Arden was honored by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as the "2000 Buildings - Commercial Real Estate Owner of the Year" for owningthe most energy-efficient buildings in one portfolio. Arden owns nearly 30 percent of all buildings that submitted applications to the EPA last year for the federalgovernment's highest energy efficiency and environmental conservation designation -- the "Energy Star" label.
While no property owner can guarantee uninterrupted power, Distributed Generation solutions offer more choice, added Larry G. Garberding of DTE Energy."All companies, not just technology firms, have heightened awareness to everything from minor surges or dips in quality to major blackouts that can affect theiroperational data, machinery and employee productivity," he said.
Edison Development Corp., a subsidiary of Detroit-based DTE Energy, supplied the advanced-design solar systems built and installed by Power Light Corporation, a leader in grid-connected solar systems. According to officials, Power Light's pre-engineered roof-top solar panels are more efficient and less expensive than most solar technology in use today, and feature penetration-free, flat installation. The project was also supported by grants from the Department ofEnergy and the State of California Energy Commission with assistance of the Solar Electric Power Association.
Cost-Benefit Comparisons Speed Adoption of Distribution Generation
RealEnergy's five million square-feet in initial deployments -- including the CalPERS/RREEF project at 5781 Van Allen Way Street in Carlsbad and Arden'sproperty at 17330 Brookhurst Street in Fountain Valley -- are a major step in what officials heralded as a rapidly-expanding trend in commercial real estate.
There is no more dramatic illustration of the trend than in San Diego, where customers last summer saw rates triple as the first region of the country to experiencefully-deregulated, free-market pricing.
"Though solar electricity costs roughly 15 cents per kilowatt hour (KWH) delivered versus traditional regulated power ranging from 3-12 cents per KWH undertariff, solar competes on a time-of-use basis with peak-demand, peak-price kilowatts on any given day," said Paul Slye, President of RealEnergy. "Further, manyproperty owners and operators appreciate the risk management tool that solar represents. Peak-period grid-delivered power costs 19 cents per KWH in certain municipalities, and runs as high as 27 or more cents per KWH in investor-owned utility service territories. Fixing the all-in cost for power with solar at 15 cents perKWH can help stabilize budgets and effectively cap energy outlays. This feature is gaining value in regions outside of San Diego as more utilities abandon old tariffrate schedules and customers are exposed to the real price of power."
'Green' Solution to Energy Crunch: On-Site Generation
"We hope Distributed Generation will be a win-win because it can potentially enhance a property's investment potential. It is also environmentally friendly," saidMichael Flaherman of CalPERS, the California Public Employees Retirement System.
RREEF managing principal Donald A. King, Jr., added, "This is the forefront of implementation of alternative energy solutions, at a critical time when traditionalpower generation and distribution systems are aging -- and damaging to the environment."
"The air-quality benefits are compelling, especially for corporations wanting to demonstrate their concern for the environment," said Garberding of DTE Energy."The Fountain Valley and Carlsbad systems, which generate approximately 545,500 KWH annually, will offset the burning of 41,300 barrels of oil, or 12,000 tonscoal, or 2600 million cubic feet of natural gas over the first 30 years than traditional fossil-fuel power sources. That also means sparing the air with 9,300 fewer tonsof harmful cumulative emissions."
The output from the Fountain Valley system alone is the equivalent amount of electricity needed to power over 240 single-family homes, and the Carlsbad systemgenerates enough electricity to power over 120 homes.
Utility Industry, Government Groups Spell Relief 'DG'
Also demonstrated at the Fountain Valley event were a microturbine from Capstone Technology and a fuel cell from Fuel Cell Energy Corp.
Far from seeing Distributed Generation as a threat, many forward-thinking utilities are supportive because of its ability to "peak shave" and reduce the possibilityof outages.
The State of California has been pro-active on the issue as well. California Governor Gray Davis, following last summer's series of Stage 2 and 3 alerts that couldhave resulted in near-disastrous brownouts and blackouts, issued Executive Orders 14, 15 and 16 to accelerate the use of "sustainable energy" programs in Stateoffices and in the private sector.
Written by: Gallen.Heckmann.Neilly
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