Silicon Valley Power—Proudly serving Santa Clara for more than 100 years
Download a PDF version of the timeline.
It all began on July 23, 1896, when the creation of a municipal electric utility was authorized by order of the Santa Clara Board of Town Trustees. The Town of Santa Clara went to work creating a lighting plant consisting of forty-six 2,000-candlepower direct current lamps and a small dynamo (or electric generator). At the end of October 1896, the electric utility formally entered into service.
By 1903, the Town was outgrowing its system and invested $5,000 to convert from direct current to alternating current—today's industry standard. This switch led to the abandonment of the small generation plant. Instead, wholesale power was purchased from the United Gas and Electric Company of San Jose and, for the next sixty-two years, the utility purchased all its electric power from privately-owned utilities.
In 1965, Silicon Valley began its launch into the high-tech era. After receiving an allocation of power from the Federal Central Valley Project, the utility began to diversify its resources. The City of Santa Clara became a charter member of the newly formed Northern California Power Agency (NCPA) on June 12, 1968.
Throughout the following years, Santa Clara and the NCPA worked on behalf of several municipal electric utilities in Northern California. Together they gained access to wholesale transmission markets and jointly developed cost-effective electric generation resources to meet the growing demand for electricity.
Things changed once again in 1980 when Santa Clara launched its 6-megawatt (MW), Cogen No. 1 power plant, making it a generating utility for the first time in seventy-three years. In 1983, the 110-megawatt NCPA Geothermal Project entered into service with Santa Clara as a lead partner, holding a 55% participation share. Santa Clara, through NCPA, was among the first municipalities in the United States to own and operate a plant of this nature. Today, the City of Santa Clara's municipal electric utility owns, operates and participates in more than 831 MW of electric generating resources and serves a peak load of approximately 470 MW.
The name Silicon Valley Power (SVP) came into being in March 1998. The name change was in recognition of the vital role the utility plays in serving a growing community of innovation and technology, as SVP powers some of the world's largest world-class high-tech companies.
SVP currently provides over 40 percent of Santa Clara’s electricity from carbon free renewable resources. In addition to using green energy from large-scale wind, solar, geothermal and hydroelectric projects outside of the area, SVP employs innovative ways to locally produce electricity by capturing and burning methane gas from a closed city landfill and using power from solar generating systems on city-owned garages and vacant, unusable land.
With growing demand for clean, efficient, and affordable energy, SVP launched the Santa Clara Green Power Program in 2007 to provide customers the option for using 100 percent renewable energy for their homes and businesses.
In March 2013, Silicon Valley Power became the first electric utility in the U.S. to provide free citywide outdoor Internet access for all inhabitants and visitors. The service was made possible by adding a free, separate public Wi-Fi access channel to the SVP MeterConnect® wireless network that will carry highly encrypted utility data to the utility when advanced meters are installed starting in 2014. In just six months, the SVP MeterConnect network was serving over 6,000 daily Wi-Fi users.
Today, as the City looks toward the future, SVP continually prepares for the new and ever changing competitive electricity market by further streamlining its operation. SVP participates in new technologies such as fiber optic networks, citywide Wi-Fi, advanced metering, digital substation controls, fuel cells, and server virtualization, working to enhance the value our customers receive from municipal ownership of their electric utility.
An electric trolley car passes under an electric arc lamp at the intersection of Franklin and Main streets in Santa Clara. This photograph, taken circa 1900, and has been reproduced from a “penny post card.” (Photograph from the City of Santa Clara historical collection.)
John J. Montgomery (on right), pioneer aviator and member of the Santa Clara College faculty, conducts electric experiments in the school's science laboratory with Fr. Richard Bell, SJ, circa 1903. (Photograph courtesy of archives, Santa Clara University.)