The Top 10 San Diego Cleantech Milestones of 2012


[Corrected 1/24/13, 12:05 pm. See below.] San Diego’s clean technology had a banner year in 2012. Numerous companies in the region—from startups to multinational giants—made significant strides in advancing San Diego’s leadership in renewable energy and green innovation. At CleanTECH San Diego, the regional non-profit industry group, we’ve picked the year’s 10 biggest milestones from a long list of local achievements.

1) [Corrected to show grant was $3.5 million.] The U.S. Department of Defense awarded a $3.5 million grant in November to San Diego’s Power Analytics, OSIsoft, and Viridity Energy to install smart grid technology systems at three military bases in the San Diego area. The project was one of five selected (from more than 750 applications nationwide) by the DoD’s Environmental Security Technology Certification Program—a testament to the “gold standard” these companies have established as technology innovators and partners in developing UC San Diego’s renowned campus microgrid.

2) In August, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted in favor of Iberdrola’s Tule Wind Power Project, a wind farm proposed on federal, county, state, and Kumeyaay tribal land in the windy McCain Valley, 67 miles East of San Diego. The project is expected to generate enough clean energy to power 60,000 local homes and reduce carbon emissions by nearly 250,000 metric tons per year. It also will create new construction jobs, tax revenues, and lease payments to local landowners. The most significant aspect, however, may be that the board—which is not known for supporting renewable energy projects—voted to welcome a utility-scale wind energy development in Eastern San Diego County.

3) San Diego launched the nation’s first all-electric EV car-sharing service in early 2012 through car2go, a Daimler subsidiary. Over 12,500 people signed up, resulting in more than 200,000 trips in the smartfortwo electric vehicles. The California Energy Commission also awarded UC San Diego a grant (with charging manufacturers RWE and ABB) to install 26 Level Two chargers and three DC fast chargers on the UCSD campus, once added giving UC San Diego the largest array of campus EV charging in the world. Building out the EV charging infrastructure is critical to ensure the continued growth of clean vehicles in San Diego, where more than 2,000 EVs already are humming along.

4) Californians statewide voted overwhelmingly in November in favor of Proposition 39, an initiative to close a corporate tax loophole for out-of-state companies—which represents an estimated $1 billion a year in new tax revenues. Half the revenues generated by passing Prop 39 will fund energy efficiency and clean energy programs at schools and municipal buildings throughout the state over the next five years, including San Diego.

5) San Diego Mayor Sanders joined Smart City San Diego—a collaboration among GE, SDG&E, UC San Diego, City of San Diego and CleanTECH San Diego—to dedicate the Solar-to-EV Project in the San Diego Zoo parking lot. The project features 10 solar canopies producing 90 kilowatts (kW), enough to power five EV charging stations and to charge a 100-kW energy storage system using new battery technology. It is the first system of its kind in the U.S. to harness solar energy for the combined use of charging plug-in electric vehicles, energy storage, and supplying renewable energy to the grid.

6) San Diego Gas & Electric, which provides electricity for over 3.3 million people in Southern California, energized the Sunrise Powerlink, a 500,000-volt transmission line that links San Diego to the untapped renewable energy of California’s Imperial Valley. With the San Onofre nuclear power plant indefinitely shut down, the $1.9 billion power line is expected to bring more than 1,000 megawatts of power to San Diego, enough to serve more than 650,000 homes.

7) San Diego County now hosts more than 200 solar companies, ranging from photovoltaic panel makers like Kyocera and Soitec, to installation and solar leasing firms. In 2012, Kyocera surpassed production of 2 million solar panels while Soitec opened its utility-scale concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) manufacturing facility in suburban Rancho Bernardo. Solar continues to be a key sector for the region’s clean technology success, with installations throughout San Diego County exceeding 132 megawatts (MW).

8) The EDGE (Educating and Developing Workers for the Green Economy) Initiative, a regional consortium developed to help meet employment needs in the biofuels industry, completed its second year of workforce training. After creating both curriculum and career-focused tools for the unemployed, underemployed, and transitioning workers, EDGE has trained more than 300 and placed more than 100 in permanent positions.

9) The San Diego City Council voted to approve several Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing program options for commercial property owners. The programs, administered by vendors such as CaliforniaFIRST, Figtree Energy Resource, Ygrene Energy Fund, and Renovate America, allow commercial property owners to use municipal bonds to help finance energy efficiency improvement projects. Private financing provides the upfront capital needed for the retrofits, so local government remains unburdened. Property owners pay for the retrofits through assessments added to their annual property tax bill, and benefit from increased building values, improved energy efficiency and lower energy costs. San Diego is now one of the most robust retrofit markets in California for such projects.

10) Honeywell brought 70 internationally selected middle school teachers to San Diego last summer as part of its annual Green Boot Camp, a five-day workshop that focuses on best practices for teaching environmental and sustainability concepts. This workshop helps train teachers in a variety of interactive experiences, such as designing and building a solar house and wind turbine. It’s one more sign that San Diego is becoming a bigger draw for multinational companies that view the mild sunbelt climate and diverse clean technology clusters here as ideal for training clean technology professionals, educators, and students.


Jim Waring is a co-founder and executive chairman of CleanTECH San Diego, a non-profit industry association established to stimulate renewable energy technologies, cleantech, and sustainable industry practices in the greater San Diego region. Follow @

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