FOUNTAIN VALLEY, CA-A coalition of commercial real estate and “green” alternative energy companies took a huge step toward finding a long-term solution to California’s recurring energy crisis on Wednesday, throwing a switch to one of the largest private commercial solar power systems ever installed in an office complex.

With almost an acre of advanced grid-connected photovoltaic panels laying flat on its roof, the 110,000-sf, three-story City Centre office building, owned by Los Angeles-based Arden Realty, is one of two installations in a series of anticipated “distributed generation” systems created by Real Energy Corp. of Los Angeles.

The solar system was supplied by Edison Development Corp., a subsidiary of Detroit-based DTE Energy, and built and installed by PowerLight Corp., which is based in Berkeley, CA. It is the latest of five-million sf of initial deployments by Real Energy.

“This is one step in a process that’s going to take years,” says Dan Cashdan, chairman of Real Energy, which will sell the power generated by the system to Arden. “Discussions of brownouts won’t go away anytime soon. This is a message to the institutional real estate market–someone needs to pay attention to this.”

The second installation being fired up Wednesday was the Carlsbad Pointe complex, a 320,000-sf industrial building in Carlsbad owned by CalWest Industrial Properties, a joint venture of the California Public Employees Retirement System based in Sacramento and San Francisco-based RREEF.

“For tenants in buildings, this provides a hedge from increasing energy costs,” says Michael Flaherman, chair of CalPERS’ investment committee. “We are bullish on real estate at CalPERS and on real estate technology. This technology lowers energy costs and increases revenue.”

Arden Realty, a Los Angeles-based real estate investment trust, started looking at its property portfolio years ago, studying alternate ways of providing cost-effective energy to its tenants, says Robert C. Accomando, PE, the REIT’s first VP. Arden was honored earlier this year by the Environmental Protection Agency as the “2000 Buildings-Commercial Real Estate Owner of the Year” for owning the most energy-efficient buildings in one portfolio. In all, 30%, or 71 buildings, in its portfolio met the Federal government’s highest energy efficiency and environmental standards, winning the EPA’s “Energy Star” label.

“Owners will find they can’t afford not to concern themselves with new energy sources. We try to enhance [return on investment] every way we can,” Accomando says.

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