Fremont, California: Evolving from a suburban community to a sustainable urban center
Silicon Valley is well known for being the hub of technological innovation, but it is also a hotbed for development of solar-friendly policies and programs. The City of Fremont, the fourth largest city in the San Francisco Bay Area, has quietly made strides in transforming itself from a typical suburban community to a sustainable urban center by adopting renewable energy goals, streamlining solar permitting, and participating in regional efforts to deploy solar. These improvements have made it faster and simpler for the community to install solar PV.
As the home of major solar companies like Solaria and Petersen Dean, Fremont is committed to solar PV as a primary energy solution for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, a goal highlighted in its renewable energy-focused 2012 General Plan and Climate Action Plan. In the same year, the City adopted a Renewable Energy Ordinance that established standards and procedures for solar and wind projects. This action showcased Fremont’s support for on-site generation and consumption of clean electricity.
Fremont has continued to actively break down the barriers to solar adoption by joining the Solar Roadmap and committed to taking action on the outlined goals. As Rachel DiFranco, Sustainability Coordinator with the City of Fremont stated, “By working closely with the ASTI team to develop Fremont’s Solar Roadmap, we have already identified and begun to hone some of our practices to make solar easier and more cost effective for our residents and businesses.”
The City’s building department has already achieved some of its goals, which includes online accessibility of solar PV permit information and documents, as well as a flat residential permit fee under $250, a best practice according to Solar America Board for Codes and Standards. Qualifying residential PV projects can take advantage of a simple, over-the-counter process used for the majority of permit applications. An expedited service for efficient commercial permits is also being developed. On the inspection side, the time it takes to schedule an inspection appointment has been reduced to two working days, a quick turnaround time by most city standards.
At a regional level, Fremont has joined the Regional Renewable Energy Procurement (R-REP) initiative, a regional program for bulk solar system purchases for public facilities in the San Francisco Bay Area, for which Optony is a technical advisor. The City has plans to procure solar for four of its facilities through this program.
Even in a region saturated with clean energy advances, the City of Fremont has made significant progress as a community to become a model for urban sustainability.
Email ASTI@solarroadmap.com to connect with the City of Fremont.