Yolo County is now producing +152% of the electricity it needs with ground mounted solar arrays occupying approximately 30 acres of land (quotes and excerpts from The EcoReport). Yolo is the only grid positive county government in the United States. They do not have an electric bill. Pacific Gas and Electric will have to pay Yolo around $500,000 a year for the surplus electricity it feeds the grid! Another renewable energy project that the County is considering would boost the county’s revenues by another $5 million a year. Yolo County's method can be duplicated and implemented in some fashion to generate revenue and savings while reducing the carbon footprint and provide educational opportunities to the community. Santa Clara and Orange Counties have already started making similar plans.
The initial impetus for the move was the Great Recession of 2008 and its aftermath. Half the innovation is the technology and going solar, but the other half was smart financing. The County used Qualified Zone Academy Bonds (QZABs). He obtained them by partnering with the Yolo County Office of Education. For Yolo County’s solar projects, the bonds were structured as a lease payable from the County’s general fund with a term of 20 years. In addition, the bonds required a 10% match by a private or nonprofit entity (in this case SunPower). The benefit of utilizing these bonds to finance the County’s solar projects is twofold — first, the County will benefit from a direct federal subsidy; and second, the County Office of Education will benefit from the 10% contribution to implement the academies.”
Yolo County's innovation is an excellent example of economic innovation using the elimination of environmental impacts as the design parameters to create real economic wealth (life support capacity). In addition, sustainability strategy starts to form the basis for reinventing public finance and the business model for local government.