Silicon Valley Power—Proudly serving Santa Clara for more than 100 years
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. 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 investor-owned utilities.
In 1965, Silicon Valley began its launch into the high-tech era. So
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 all municipal electric utilities of Northern California.
Together they tried to gain access to wholesale transmission markets and
to jointly develop cost-effective electric generation resources to meet
their growing demand.
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 service with Santa Clara as a lead
partner, holding a 55% participation share. Santa Clara was the first
municipality 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 380 megawatts of electric
generating resources and serves a peak load of approximately 460 MW.
The name Silicon Valley Power came into being in March 1998. The name
change was in recognition of the vital role the utility plays in serving
a growing community, as well as powering some of the world's largest
And today, as the City looks toward the future, its utility is preparing
for the new competitive electric market by further streamlining its
operation, participating in new technologies (such as fuel cells,
energy-efficient web servers, and electric-hybrid transit busses) and
working with its customers to enhance the value they 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
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