Tom Butt
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  MCE Solar One Goes On Line
January 27, 2018

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MCE Solar One goes online
January 25, 2018

The drive down Castro Street in Richmond provides quite a sight these days. A forest of solar panels — 35,856 in total — now populate land provided by Chevron Richmond along Castro Street near Hensley Street.

They constitute the largest publicly owned solar project in the Bay Area. And on Dec. 22 last year, the MCE Solar One project quietly went online for commercial operation, according to project officials.

An official ribbon-cutting ceremony is expected in April, but anyone driving the long distance from each end of the 10-megawatt solar farm can already marvel at its size and function.

The solar farm is producing 22,000 megawatt-hours per year of electricity, enough to power over 3,400 homes annually. The pollution-free energy eliminates 3,234 metric tons of carbon dioxide in one year and takes more than 680 fossil fuel cars off the road annually, according to project officials.

The solar farm was created as part of a community benefits agreement reached between the city of Richmond and Chevron in connection with the $1 billion Refinery Modernization Project.

As part of the agreement, Chevron leased the former, underutilized brownfield site to Marin Clean Energy (MCE) for 25 years at an extremely low rate, with a five-year extension option. MCE is a nonprofit, public power agency that partners with Pacific Gas & Elecrtic Co. to provide renewable energy to customers, including in Richmond.

To build the solar farm, MCE teamed with RichmondBUILD, the free career-training program prepares local residents for high-paying jobs in the construction and renewable energy industries. Graduates of the program were among the 341 jobs supported by the construction of MCE Solar One. A 50-percent resident workforce was required on the project, along with engagement with local contractors.