San Francisco Tidal Project Rolling In, Mayor Newsom Says

GoldenGateBridgeSan Francisco’s tidal-energy project, expected to be the largest ocean-power project off of the California coast, has been in the works for four and a half years and counting. But the city is now in “the final stages” of getting permits for the project planned for the waters near the Golden Gate Bridge, Mayor Gavin Newsom said at the Renewable Energy Finance Forum on Tuesday.

The mayor’s been a stalwart supporter of the project in spite of concerns about the expense. Cost has been a major factor keeping ocean power at bay so far.

Newsom called it “unfortunate” that a city – and not the state or the federal government – is taking on the tidal project. He also said he’s less optimistic now than he was in January or February that Congress will pass a robust cap-and-trade bill. The climate-change bill, approved by the House in June, is poised for a tougher fight in the Senate, which is expecting to officially get its own draft version Thursday.

But cities don’t have to wait for a federal policy to start making a difference, Newsom said. He encouraged other cities to follow in San Francisco’s footsteps, for example, by requiring LEED certification when commercial buildings are remodeled. Simple steps like that one helped San Francisco roll back its greenhouse-gas emissions to nearly 6 percent below 1990 levels by September of last year.

While some of these programs have not been easy – “trust me, gay marriage was not controversial compared to requiring composting,” Newsom said – in general, it has been “extraordinarily easy” to work on reducing San Francisco’s greenhouse-gas emissions, he added. Offering $7,000 in solar rebates, for example, was quickly able to boost solar generation 450 percent in the foggy city, giving it six times as many solar installations as Los Angeles, he said.

San Francisco also is getting ready to launch its loan program for renewable, energy-efficiency and water-conservation projects for homes and businesses, he said. The program, similar to the one Berkeley, Calif., tested as a pilot program last year, will enable city homeowners and businesses to borrow money for those projects and pay them off as part of their property taxes.

“We’re taking it to a whole new level,” he said, adding that it will be the largest such city fund so far. Newsom said in March the program was targeting a $20-$30 million fund for the program, which is expected to launch by the end of this year.

Image courtesy of Flickr.