RANCHO CUCAMONGA - City officials are continuing efforts to encourage solar energy use here by streamlining permitting, opening a solar energy demonstration center and installing the first major solar array on a city building.
The effort is part of the city's "Healthy RC" program, which includes a "Healthy Earth" component meant to increase sustainable development and energy use in the city. As part of that initiative, the city recently set rules allowing residents of larger properties to apply for a wind turbine permit.
"Renewable energy such as a solar and wind power harnesses a free resource and hopes to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels," said Alana Rivadeneyra, sustainability coordinator for the city.
"They help to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions associated with conventional energy production. Solar panels also raise property values and stimulate our local job market."
While solar panel use has been permitted in all development zones of the city for a number of years, Rivadeneyra said the permitting process for solar panels has been streamlined to encourage their use in the city. Application documents are revised to be easier to understand, she said, in addition to supplying applicants with a checklist of required items prior to permit approval.
"The process is easier and clearer, so we've been working with these new revised documents, and we've also been getting feedback from our solar community, like the contractors, so they can provide input," Rivadeneyra said.
The city has also partnered with GRID Alternatives Inland Empire, a nonprofit group that helps provide no-cost solar installations for qualified low-income residents.
"To date, six homeowners have participated in the program, with more to come in 2013 hopefully," Rivadeneyra said.
Building and Inspection Supervisor Mark Berg said the city in recent years has also issued more than 300 solar permits to property owners annually, while it only issued one system permit a month in 2007.
As residents increase their use of solar energy power, the city will soon join them with its new public works service center and household hazardous waste center, set to open in February near Ninth and Hellman avenues.
The complex will be the first municipal building to feature a large-scale solar panel project, said Public Works Director Bill Wittkopf.
About 80 percent of energy for the buildings, Wittkopf said, will be supplied by the 200-kilovolt panels. The household hazardous waste building has 165 panels installed on its roof. The public works services building has 630, for a total of 795 new panels collecting solar energy.
"This will help offset the electrical utility costs because the solar panels should produce 70 to 80 percent of the power demand for the buildings," Wittkopf said.
In addition to solar permitting and implementation efforts, the city will begin education efforts with a solar panel demonstration center at the Victoria Gardens Cultural Center and learning materials at the library.
A kiosk in the cultural center is attached to new solar cells above the library, and visitors will be able to see data on energy collection and production, said Trina Valdez, management coordinator for the Rancho Cucamonga Municipal Utility (RCMU), which provides electricity for Victoria Gardens and City Hall. The solar-voltaic demonstration project is a joint effort between the library and the RCMU.
Installation of the project is almost complete, and the city will have an open house to begin operation of the center sometime in early February.
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