Gallery: Can San Francisco Become 100% Sustainable by 2020?


San Francisco has always had a reputation as an environmentally conscious city, however it has set its sights on becoming the greenest city in the country by turning 100% sustainable by 2020. The plan was announced by outgoing Mayor Gavin Newsom, who last week launched an initiative to make the city fully ‘green’ within a decade. Announced by Newsom during his speech at the completion of the Sunset Reservoir Solar Project, the project is the largest municipal solar facility in the state, and covers an area said to be the size of 12 football fields. While the plant has tripled the amount of solar energy made available to the state, Newsom is now aiming even higher.

San Francisco in the future?

The mayor announced a $250,000 grant from the Sidney Frank Foundation to assess how to meet the city’s 950-megawatt peak power demand with nothing but renewables by 2020. While the 5MW solar plant is a good start, San Francisco already has an impressive renewable record, including 10 MW of distributed solar and 3.5 MW of biogas – this leaves more than 900 MW to the generation portfolio of Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and the Hetch Hetchy Water and Power system.

So what future plans does Newsom have up his sleeve? Firstly the state is expected to increase the amount of wave-derived energy from 30 MW to 100 MW, with local officials set to launch a 1 MW to 3 MW wave pilot project next year.

Speaking to the New York Times, Johanna Partin, environmental policy adviser to Newsom siad, “All of these details need to be looked at very carefully. We need to look at what we can do in the city to reduce our energy consumption overall. Energy efficiency will be the biggest and most important part of this.”She also countered any accusations that the plan was merely a publicity stunt saying, “I think it’s a very aggressive goal. I think it’s absolutely doable.”

San Francisco Environment Director Melanie Nutter added that the city should be able to meet these goals if the city faces these challenges the same way it has handled its recycling program. “Some say it’s an impossible goal to achieve, but they said the same thing about San Francisco’s recycling goal, that we would never be able to achieve 75% diversion by 2010,” she said. “In fact, we surpassed it and have already reached a 77% diversion rate.” She added, “I know that we can achieve 100%t renewably generated electricity by 2020.”

If any city in the U.S. manage to make themselves 100% sustainable within a decade, the smart money would be to bet on San Francisco.

+ San Francisco

via New York Times

Image © Radhika Bhagwat


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  1. UncleB May 20, 2011 at 8:42 pm

    Chinese designed, plutonium free, benign waste product,cheaper to operate, guaranteed easily decommissionable, Thorium fueled nuclear reactors, will provide adequate electrical power for astoundingly clean, safe, cheap, complete, petroleum free, oil recovery at Canada’s Tar Sands. Pipelines for this oil directly to American markets are already underway. Even exports to Asia and world markets are probable. Canada has more, proven, oil, than all Saudi Arabia ever had – just in the Tar Sands. Americans, fear not! SUV’s, your beloved V-8 cars, asphalt roads, Jet planes even for inter-city travel, all will be available. Slightly higher – world prices – costs will be involved, but only because this oil will be sold on world markets, and Americans like Canadians today, will pay world prices at the pumps! By Corporate laws, traditions! According to American Corporate law!
    Since the price of oil, world-wide is being driven ever-upward, by Asians and their burgeoning growth, Americans and Canadians are advised to seek the cheapest means for transportation, heating. Canadian Tar Sands Oil guarantees availability, not price, and Asians bid in very strong, unmanipulated, undiluted, stable, well backed Yuan, so expect a good, healthy,corporate, price war for oil, as usual, but don’t believe the nonsense about shortage of supply! Canada has oil and is selling all the oil they can always! Do expect world prices, just like for Iraqi oil!

  2. Peterbald March 16, 2011 at 9:02 pm

    I was lucky to find this blog. I realize that you are a pro at your occupation! I am launching a website soon, and your information will be very useful for me… Thanks for all your help and wishing you the success in your business.

  3. lazyreader December 21, 2010 at 8:08 am

    These ones are also about transportation but also talk about planning. It may be about Portland but nearly as relevant. Watch parts 1 through 3

  4. lazyreader December 21, 2010 at 8:00 am

    As for the transportation part of supposed sustainability, Watch this:

  5. lazyreader December 21, 2010 at 7:35 am

    What good is management without money? Watch these (parts 1-3)

    It may be about more about Portland but it’s just as relevant.

    Or this….

  6. onigami December 20, 2010 at 1:19 am

    SF Weekly bungled that investigation. Village Voice Media tried way too hard to create parallels between SF and other cities, all the while stimulating taxwhiners like you. Outside of the center of the universe (aka NYC), VVM to sensationalizes too much.

    SF Bay Guardian actually did some fact-checking, and noted that in reality, management in SF is not that much different in other cities. Behold:,0

  7. lazyreader December 18, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    These lofty goals require a large amount of policy change and a huge amount of enforcement. From what type of cups people can take to Starbucks to what they can be allowed to drive. And the final nail in the coffin is going to be about money! If they’re is anything San Francisco suffers from, it’s not polution, it’s bad management (click below).

  8. lazyreader December 18, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    So you would argue it’s right to spend millions of dollars on a feel good project that contributes nothing to the people that payed for it. By that logic, as a taxpayer you and I should get at least a small portion of the energy made. No one’s saying that small solar powered backpacks are not useful for the army in running their gadgets or powering bases with windmills, but running trucks and tanks? But the military is not based on a profit basis. My arguments have nothing to do with how the military operates, but we’ve seen them with their hands in the cookie jar before when it comes to wasted spending (simpley Google the Commanche, the Crusader, XM301, Zumwalt destroyer, the V-22 or the F-35 where the he first 3 projects have been cancelled. The other 3, production has been scaled far below level). My arguments are we should spend the money on research, making the technology cheap to civilian consumers can get it and that “sustainability” is not and acheivable goal in such a short time frame, if at all.

  9. Corban December 17, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    Lazyreader, financial analysis cannot be performed in a vacuum.

    The military in the Middle East theatre has found it prudent to invest in clean energy. It takes $400 dollars to ship a gallon of gas to the front lines, and these supply convoys are under fire. Using the sun on the spot improves logistics. Even if it only replaces diesel gens and doesn’t power the tanks, that merely means more diesel for tanks.

    Indeed, clean energy may not be market competitive with fossil fuels for a while. But when the market has failed somehow, or when there’s a tactical need for something less exposed, it can be a boon.

  10. gerrymetal December 17, 2010 at 9:05 am

    @ lazyreader

    good points, but isn’t it best to save co2 and other harmful greenhouse gases from being emitted? i think we all know about the cost of solar and other renewables at the moment, but without ambitious projects like the above, big investment and state subisidies, they’ll never reach grid parity (the point at which the cost of electricity generation becomes equal or cheaper than current grid methods).

    As for polystyrene cups, the question for me is still one of resources. In a city like San Fran where approx 77% of materials are recycled (as claimed in the article above) it is useful to consider fully recycled materials for these products. Otherwise the only option that makes sense to me is to go for the ceramic/long term/reusable material. Ceramic can be reused too. Perhaps its just best to avoid products which involve the processing of fossil fuels? Recyclable single-use cups made from a sustainable material perhaps?

  11. lazyreader December 16, 2010 at 8:32 pm

    From a previous story Inhabitat posted, In California, the Navy built a solar array across it’s parking lot at the cost of 1.9 million dollars (all Stimulus money). It’ll only save 30,000 dollars a year for them. Which means it will pay for it self after 63.3333 years (assuming they don’t spend those savings). If for instance they put the saved money in the bank to collect with interest. So say the payback could be under 40 years or so. But as for the panels, they’ll be obsolete in about 10 years. And removed after 15-20, Now you have to contract, pay and install new more modern ones and pay for the safe disposal of the old panels, as these high efficiency solar cells are made of gallium arsenide (arsenic compounds for all those who failed chemistry class) and germanium, not silicon. Don’t forget the cost of maintenance, cleaning and service. Where’s the cost saving. All it will do is generate only a fraction of the power needed to run the base. It’ll look good when politicians stand there to cut the ribbon and maybe shade the Admiral’s car so it’s cooler in the summer.

  12. lazyreader December 15, 2010 at 9:04 pm

    Sorry that was a addition to another article about the bag ban not this one.

  13. lazyreader December 15, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    Acording to a study by the new york times….A ceramic mug may seem a more virtuous choice than a cup made of polystyrene, the foam banned by ecologically conscious local governments. But it takes much more energy to manufacture the mug, and then each washing consumes more energy (not to mention water). According to calculations by Martin Hocking, a chemist at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, you would have to use the mug 1,000 times before its energy-consumption-per-use is equal to the cup. (If the mug breaks after your 900th coffee, you would have been better off using 900 polystyrene cups.) A more immediate environmental impact has been demonstrated by studies in restaurants: the average number of bacterial organisms on reusable cups, plates and flatware is 200 times greater than on disposable ones. Polystyrene cups are cheap because they require so little energy and material to manufacture — without reading a chemist’s analysis, you could deduce from the cup’s low price that it’s an efficient use of natural resources. Saving a tree is a mixed blessing. When there’s less demand for virgin wood pulp, timber companies are likely to sell some of their tree farms — maybe to condominium developers. Less virgin pulp means less pollution at paper mills in timber country, but recycling operations create pollution in areas where more people are affected: fumes and noise from collection trucks, solid waste and sludge from the mills that remove ink and turn the paper into pulp. Recycling newsprint actually creates more water pollution than making new paper: for each ton of recycled newsprint that’s produced, an extra 5,000 gallons of waste water are discharged.

  14. lazyreader December 15, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    I’m skeptical……A city with 815,000 people. Can they really have enough space when it hits a million + by 2020. It’s metro is 7.4 million, and all those lots used to grow stuff will be bought up and used to build housing because San Fran, like Portland wants to make cities alot denser. Growing food on the roof, but as indicated on the picture above won’t happen because the government planners want to saturate the city with highrises. Where is the land for all they would have used for the organic goodies, I mean solar panels……I mean WIND TURBINES….I mean bike paths….. I mean light rail….No I mean’t parks and gardens. Where are they going to put it all and second how are they going to afford it? San Fran isn’t New York and trying to make it that way isn’t a good way to run a city. There is an entire website called debunking portland which can be applied to san fran just as easily, to show just how bad it is environmentally and economically to run cities in such a manner.

  15. jillp December 15, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    Best of luck to them!

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