Build a Solar Farm on Mt. Trashmore

Build a Solar Farm on Mt. Trashmore


Alameda Municipal Power (AMP) has been talking about developing a community solar facility in Alameda for several years. Funding for such a project will be available starting next year. The former city trash dump next to the Bay Farm Bridge is the perfect location. Now is the time for our Public Utilities Board (PUB) to launch the effort.

Alameda has exceeded its renewable energy goals, which gives AMP the option of selling surplus green power to agencies or companies that need it to meet their own renewable energy goals. At the Nov. 21 PUB meeting, the board authorized the sale of part of AMP’s renewable energy during the next three years. The program, called Renewable Energy Credits (REC), will bring in $7 million. The funds have to be used to benefit ratepayers and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. No decision has yet been made on how this $7 million will be spent.

A similar REC sales contract over the past four years will end on Dec. 31. It will bring in about $25 million. Those funds have already been earmarked for a variety of AMP programs, such as replacing street lights with LEDs and installing smart electric meters. The PUB also set aside $1 million of those funds for a community solar program.

Under a community solar program, a solar facility would be built locally and the power sold on a subscription basis to local users. It would be similar to AMP’s existing Alameda Green program that offers users the option of paying about $6 extra per month for 100 percent renewable energy. A community solar program would make it possible for anyone, including the half of Alameda’s residents who rent, to go solar.

The city still owns the former city dump, known as Mt. Trashmore. It has been outfitted with a system of pipes and pumps. These extract the methane gas trapped in the garbage. The city periodically burns off the gas in a burner next to the Model Airplane Field. According to city staff, the methane apparatus cannot be dismantled for another 15 years, which rules out converting the land to a park. 

The entire site is about 20 acres, with roughly 10 acres of relatively flat landscape for photovoltaic solar panels. Based on examples elsewhere, the existing $1 million plus the available $7 million could conceivably fund the entire solar facility. And unlike funding mechanisms for other solar facilities that rely on borrowed money or outside investment, AMP’s capital outlay would not have to be recouped from ratepayers, thereby making the solar power both affordable and a revenue stream. 

Other benefits of a local solar facility include saving ratepayers the transmission costs to get the electricity here, reducing the burden on the statewide grid and making our city more self-reliant.

There is even space at the site to include an energy storage facility to capture full sun value. Battery storage is one option. Another option is flywheel storage, which is going from prototype testing by Amber Kinetics at Alameda Point to online use at a PG&E plant under construction.

Given the prominent gateway location, it would also serve as a highly visible marquee for our local green-power portfolio. As green as Alameda is, few people have ever seen any of Alameda’s green power being produced. This would be hard to miss.

Six years ago, the city of Hayward built a one-megawatt solar photovoltaic facility on eight acres of land to provide power for its nearby water pollution control facility at a cost of under $6 million. Hayward plans to build an additional one-megawatt solar facility.

With a PUB priority-setting workshop slated for January, and the next budget following soon thereafter, PUB should begin a feasibility study for a Mt. Trashmore solar facility. It’s time to catch up with Hayward. 



Richard Bangert posts stories and photos about the environment on his blog Alameda Point Environmental Report and is a contributing writer for the Alameda Sun.