Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Larry Asera

Larry Asera

Vallejo to make Asera its first energy czar

Vallejo is turning to a solar Moses in hopes he will lead the city of 120,000 into the promised land of energy independence.

Larry Asera, a politically well-connected energy expert, Vallejo entrepreneur and international businessman whose specialty is solar energy, is slated to become the city's first "energy czar."

The 52-year-old Asera, who helped write the state's solar energy and solid waste management laws, faces a threefold task to fulfill a $96,000-a-year consulting contract that the City Council is expected to approve on Tuesday:

• Developing city assets as producers of alternative energy sources to reduce Vallejo's reliance on the crisis-ridden electrical and natural gas production and distribution networks.

Among the possibilities, according to Asera and City Manager David Martinez, are installing photovoltaic generators atop city buildings; building hydroelectric plants at three lakes in Napa County owned by the city; making use of methane gas generated by the city's sanitation plant; and building cogeneration facilities.

Vallejo's situation is unique for a municipality because it owns multiple potential sources of electrical and gas energy.

The city currently buys its electricity through a consortium run by the Association of Bay Area Governments. PG&E supplies the vast majority of Vallejo's businesses and residences with electricity and natural gas.

"Unlike most cities in California, because of its location and natural resources, the city of Vallejo is in a unique position to become an independent power producer," Asera said.

With a diversity of sources such as Mare Island (existing power plant with transmission and distribution lines); Vallejo lakes (small hydropower); Vallejo sewage plant (methane gas production and co-generation); waterways (utility barges) and Vallejo hills (solar and wind farm micro-utilities), the city of Vallejo could form a municipal utility district, expand or build a new power generation facility at Mare Island and deliver clean, efficient and affordable electricity to residents and businesses.

"With a well-managed energy conservation and development plan, the city of Vallejo can be a leader among publicly owned utilities in promoting self-sufficiency and self-reliance," said Asera, the president of Asera, LLC, a Vallejo-based consulting firm specializing in energy technology and development, resources and land use.

Working with city officials, businesses and residents to increase energy conservation. The city already has cut electricity use by 15 percent since the beginning of California's energy crisis and now is aiming for a 25 percent reduction, Martinez said.

Building a power plant on Mare Island to fuel commercial development, possibly through an agreement similar to the one between the city of Hayward and Calpine.

The dormant plant that powered the old Navy shipyard can't be brought up to modern emissions standards. But Rep. Mike Thompson, whose North Coast congressional district includes Fairfield and Vacaville in Solano County, is drafting legislation to finance municipal power plants at abandoned military facilities such as Mare Island and the former Alameda Naval Air Station, Martinez said.

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