Davis and Clean Energy Assets/CleanPath Ventures co-own an 86-acre solar farm just north of the city limits, which was part of a Photovoltaics for Utility Systems Applications (PVUSA) project sponsored by government and private industry. It was constructed in 1986 by PG&E on the grounds of the old waste water treatment plant. PVUSA was later sold to the California Energy Commission in 1997, then sold to Davis in 2001 for a symbolic $1. Originally a research facility, it was reactivated in 2003 to generate power for the city and alleviate the recent energy crisis. Given the suspension of electricity wheeling (sale to specific customers with delivery through the grid), the legal mechanism through which this power is being delivered to the utility grid turned out to require special legislation that mentions PVUSA by name. That legislation allows various loads throughout the city of Davis to be treated as though they were all located at the PVUSA site, thus pretending that they are net metered. This leaves Davis free to compensate Renewable Ventures in a mutually-agreeable manner in spite of the no-wheeling rules. The alternative to special legislation would have involved a wholesale delivery arrangement with PG&E with considerably lower energy valuation than net metering offers, which would likely have left it offline indefinitely.
The facility can currently generate ~650kW with an annual output of 1,300 MWh. For reference, an average house uses ~1,000 kWh/month, which means about 108 homes can be powered by the PVUSA alone. Note that not all 86 acres are used for solar panels. There are plans to expand to 1MW and beyond as aging equipment is replaced.
Green certificates (a.k.a Tradable Renewable Certificates, or TRCs) were once available for purchase at http://www.pvusasolar.com that guaranteed 750kWh of renewable energy would be generated for every certificate you bought. (These were of greatest interest to organizations that have to meet "clean power mix" mandates, though any environmentally-concerned individual or organization could purchase them.) Although the purchase of these certificates meant that power would be generated, it did not directly benefit the customer in terms of actually being able to make use of the power. The current overseer of the PVUSA, CleanPath Ventures, is attempting to change this sales focus by making direct purchase of solar power possible in the future, but this will likely only be possible through expansion of the existing facility.
Through a cooperative agreement intended to assist continued development of the solar electric power market, three "residential scale" grid-connected PV systems were installed on an existing mounting structure at the PVUSA power plant in 2004. Reports on the expected and measured performance of these systems are available at http://pierminigrid.showdata.org.
CEA (Clean Energy Assets) is currently the sole leaseholder of the PVUSA site, but there are plans to expand the solar power production capability of the facility with the help of a development partner, CleanPath Ventures. CleanPath received permission from the City Council in September of 2010 to expand power production from about 1 MW to as much as 15 MW. This represents part of a non-binding agreement with the city of Davis and is dependent upon CleanPath's ability to secure a federal loan which is currently being pursued.
If the expansion succeeds as planned, a number of homeowners and apartment dwellers in Davis will have the option to purchase solar power directly from the facility. Each customer would be designated a piece of solar-paneled land, a process which has been likened to renting a community garden plot. This is an intriguing possibility for potential customers who are interested in solar power but have trees near their home which block out the sun. Or for those who simply don't like the appearance of solar panels on their rooftops.
http://www.3phases.com/facilities/PVUSASolarFacility.pl - Technical information