A sweetheart deal for the Livermore Area Recreation and Park District (LARPD) that will bring solar power and energy-cost savings to the district is inching closer to reality.

The project, two years in the making, is expected to provide all of the power needed for the Robert Livermore Community Center (RLCC) and will lock in energy costs at below-market rates for the next 25 years. It would place solar arrays on top of two carports to be constructed in Robert Livermore Park, off Loyola Way.

Indicative of the rapid improvement in solar technology, the project originally called for solar panels on three carports. Increases in the efficiency of solar panels allowed the project to be scaled back to the two structures currently planned. Each carport is expected to provide shelter for approximately 50 vehicles.

“We think it’s going to save us about $22,000 in year one, and it just goes up from there” said Jeffrey Schneider, LARPD administrative services manager. “If we assume a modest increase in market rates for energy of 5% a year, in the first five years we’ll save over $120,000 in utility expenses just for the RLCC ... We’re locked in for the life of the deal. As long as we need electricity, we’re going to get it at way below market rates.”

LARPD General Manager Mathew Fuzie said the terms of this project make it good for Livermore and the environment.

“It is unusual to find terms like this in the public sector that locks in a great below market rate for 25 years,” Fuzie continued.

While bringing clean, renewable power to the LARPD, it will do so at no cost to the district.

“We’re pinching ourselves, still,” Schneider said. “Effectively, the contractor is going to take on the costs of building the carports and installing and maintaining the solar panels. We will be responsible for making sure they have access to maintain the panels. There’s no capital outlay for the district for this project.”

Syserco, the Fremont-based company acting as the project’s general contractor, brought the deal to the LARPD. Standard Solar, Inc. will do the construction and will sell energy to the district at a cost below today’s market rate. That rate will, according to Schneider, be fixed for the next 20 years with an option to extend the contract for an additional five years.

“To us, it was a no-brainer,” Schneider said. “We’re just trying to get this thing across the finish line.”

Getting the project across the finish line requires assistance from the City of Livermore, which owns the land where the project will be built. The LARPD leases the land from the city. The city needs to approve the sublease and nondisturbance agreements necessary before construction begins. The Livermore City Council is expected to consider these items during a council meeting in November. If approved, construction could start as early as January, and will continue for six to eight months.

“We really don’t expect to pay market rates for energy here at the RLCC during the life of this deal,” Schneider said. “That’s the bottom line. And we get a carport. We don’t have covered parking here, so that’s a nice benefit, too.”

This project will address the bulk of the LARPD’s energy costs, but the district is continuing to work with Syserco to identify other opportunities for energy savings.

“I fully support this solar project,” said Jan Palajac, chair of the LARPD Board of Directors. “LARPD is doing the right thing for the environment by taking ourselves off the grid at RLCC.”

The LARPD was created in 1947 and covers a 243.5-square-mile area bound by Contra Costa County to the north, San Joaquin County to the east, Santa Clara County to the south, and the cities of Pleasanton and Dublin to the west. The district is governed by a five-member board and directors serve four-year terms. The stated mission of the district is “to provide the people of the Livermore area with outstanding recreation programs and a system of parks, trails, recreation areas, and facilities that promote enjoyment, lifelong learning, and healthy, active lifestyles.”

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