Downtown Bolinas to get solar panels, with major help from donors

04/22/2020

The solar industry has not slowed. And thanks to recent hefty contributions from two anonymous donors, a project to bring solar energy to several downtown Bolinas properties owned by the Bolinas Community Land Trust—including the gas station—by the summer is underway. Finding an alternative energy source for the gas station, which was shuttered last fall during the planned PG&E shutoffs, was an impetus for the project, said Arianne Dar, the trust’s executive director. “Last fall during the blackouts, there were a number of residents who needed to get over the hill and didn’t have gas. There were also concerns that if there was a fire in Bolinas, residents wouldn’t be able to get enough gas to get out of town,” she said. The goal is to install enough solar paneling to meet 70 to 100 percent of the energy needs at 6 Wharf Road, which houses several commercial businesses as well as the gas station, and for the Gibson House, the nearby affordable housing complex. The project will include 120 panels, providing around 35 kilowatt hours. The system will be equipped with solar-charged battery packs for both blackouts and night-time energy needs, said Wyn Hoag, a Lagunitas resident and the energy analyst in charge of designing the plans for Sun First Solar. “This will be one of the larger solar operations in West Marin,” said Mr. Hoag, who has nearly three decades of experience with the industry. “The solar will produce a huge amount of energy during the day, for the gas station and the apartments, and any excess will charge the batteries. At the end of the day, the batteries can then supply the gas station and the units with the stored electricity.” If PG&E cuts power, Mr. Hoag added, the system will be engineered to exit the grid entirely and use the solar and battery combination to keep providing power independently. The project launched back in January, when the trust received $90,000 in grant monies. One donor recently put down another $18,000, which was the remaining balance to complete several infrastructure upgrades necessary before installation. That phase will cost $245,000, and a second donor recently contributed that chunk of change. The plan is to install the solar in April or May, and the batteries by June. Although the new project was intended to be the subject of a community presentation and discussion in collaboration with the owners of Bolinas Hardware and the volunteer fire department, the meeting will now have to wait. Mr. Hoag said this month, that he and his crew have been finishing the final design stage of the project while keeping a six-foot distance from tenants and residents. In general, he said, the company, which provides an essential service, has seen an uptick in business in the last month. “Some people are out of work. Some people who, say, work for Facebook or Google or what have you, are working from home. With everyone at home, I think people are thinking about their houses more,” he said.