Solar Energy Project

We are pleased to share that the Solar Carport at the Community Center is making excellent progress, and, weather permitting, will be finished this month and producing power by the first of the new year! The solar panels on the Community Center roof were installed this summer, part of the City’s larger effort to reduce its energy costs and to continue to develop sustainability initiatives. 

There will be some equipment remaining after the work for a few weeks at the far end of the parking area. We thank you for your patience during construction.


The solar project was approved by the City Council after multiple public hearings in August 2014, as was a similar project at the Wastewater Treatment Plant and the Corporation Yard. 

“This is a wonderful opportunity,” City Manager Jim McCann told the Council at the time. “This addresses the Council’s interest in sustainability and will allow us to reduce our greenhouse gas production while also reducing costs in our electrical consumption.” 

The Council’s approval came four years after the City installed a solar energy array behind the Public Safety Building. The solar project at the Community Center is projected to have an estimated energy cost savings of $1,522,800 over a period of 25 years. 

The project comes via a program called Sustainable Energy & Economic Development (SEED), a public-private partnership between San Rafael-based nonprofit Strategic Energy Innovations (SEI) and Optony, Inc., a Silicon Valley solar consulting firm that specializes in setting up municipal solar programs and projects. 

The SEED partnership involves a host of cities and agencies in the North Bay, including the City of San Rafael, which is coordinating the projects, as well as Marinwood Community Services District, Southern Marin Fire Protection District, City of Novato and Marin Healthcare District, among others.

One of the crucial components of the SEED project’s success in Mill Valley is the concept of net metering – the idea that the City’s solar arrays would produce more electricity than its facilities regularly need, thereby generating excess energy that can be sold back to the utility grid and generate revenue. 

The solar array behind the Public Safety Building supplies enough energy to run both the Fire and Police Department sides of the building, and returns between $3,000 and $6,000 annually in revenue for excess energy sold to Marin Clean Energy. 

The City’s solar energy projects stems from its dedication to sustainability. The City Council has identified sustainability as a Core Value and Key Issue, and the General Plan adopted by the City Council in 2013 also serves as the City's Climate Action Plan, which identifies emission-reduction programs such as supporting and providing incentives for using clean energy and energy efficiency solutions to assist the City in meetings its emission reduction targets. 

The City has established a goal of reducing City-related emissions by 20 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2020. In 2010, approximately 21 percent of City-related emissions were related to its buildings and facilities. 

As part of the Council’s approval in August 2014, the solar project was sent to the Planning Commission to provide specific design input to make sure the project would not detract from the aesthetics and functionality of the Community Center and its parking areas. 

The Commission expressed overall support for the project and provided specific recommendations, including: 

  • Making the steel columns and fascia panels supporting the array dark bronze/grey, as are the parking lot’s existing light poles.
  • Installing concrete wheel stops to protect the solar array columns.
  • Providing concrete curbing at the east end of the array to match the design of the existing curbing at the west end. 
  • Making sure that the concrete bases of the new columns match the existing light pole bases.
  • Studying the parking with the panels in place to make sure that there will be sufficient lighting in existing parking areas and under the panels where new energy efficient lighting will be installed.
  • Coordinating the construction work with any proposed events at the Community Center.
  • Restriping and pavement repair of the parking lot after installation is complete.

Learn more:

Questions or comments: Please contact the Department of Public Works at 415-384-4800 or email