Commentary | Will Piedmont build an all-electric pool?

The final workshop for the community pool is this Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. in Veterans Hall. Plan C (a smaller pool and larger building) will be finalized to deliver a schematic design for City Council to consider in January. From the 2016 conceptual design meetings, through the UU campaign and now these workshops, a final vision of a pool that meets all community needs is almost here. 

Now comes the hard part.

In this era of climate change, any new construction that does not use less natural gas than what preceded it adds to the problem. That is not easy to do when building a larger pool. The design team has taken this challenge on by committing to a design that uses no natural gas. That makes business sense – the cost of natural gas will surpass that of electricity in the coming years. And not using natural gas at the pool, currently the largest user in town, will lead to a significant reduction in Piedmont’s use of natural gas which has increased by 14% from 2015 to 2019.

Though details remain to be worked out, the current design calls for an “all-electric” pool, relying on on-site solar/thermal panels and electricity from the grid to power the pools and building. The concept follows that of the City of Mountain View, which recently approved plans for an all-electric pool. (View HERE). That design was driven by the decision of the Mountain View City Council to adopt Reach Codes for municipal projects, thereby prohibiting the use natural gas for the new pool. The Mountain View pool design is almost identical to that of Piedmont’s – 8000 sq ft building and 10,000 sq ft of water. Electricity generated on-site by novel photovoltaic/thermal (PVT) panels and electricity from the “clean” grid power a large array of heat pumps. Using electricity from the grid is currently expensive so the Mountain View plan identifies sites for additional PVT and geothermal systems.

But does all-electric mean no GHG? At the moment, there is no such thing as a “clean” grid but it is being developed by organizations like East Bay Community Energy (EBCE), a non-profit that puts all it profits into the development of renewable power (no GHG generated). Piedmont was an early adopter of EBCE’s highest rates and can certainly claim it is off-setting GHG by doing so but a 100% offset is unlikely. EBCE has set a goal of 100% renewable energy by 2030 so the best course for the pool now is to maximize the amount of on-site solar and thermal power generation while the grid gets cleaner. And the design should set aside placeholder space for batteries which are the next step to greening the grid.   

Mountain View estimates this state-of-the art design will cost $27 million dollars.  Piedmont has raised $24M from bond sales for the pool. Council should consider providing additional funds from the Facility Maintenance Fund to make up any difference needed to achieve this design. The pool is the most dilapidated facility in town — why would they not?

Visit Piedmont Community Pool Workshop Series for more details on the workshop.

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