The California Energy Commission approved $28 million in funding and loans, with most of the money going to contracts with the University of California for clean-energy and reliability projects. Also reaping rewards were three companies that won $5 million in agreements for distributed-generation projects, while Fresno and Napa received a total of $3.46 million in loans for photovoltaic and efficiency projects. ?Seems to be University of California day,? said CEC chair William Keese during the March 17 hearing. Much of the funding came from the Public Interest Research Program, which is funded by ratepayers, said Bob Therkelson, CEC executive director. This spending splurge empties the program?s pot of money, which will be replenished beginning in July. The numerous contracts approved on 4-0 votes included two worth a total of $7 million for air-quality programs. UC Riverside will receive $3.5 million for an air-quality research program, and the same amount will go to UC San Diego, Scripps Institute, for regional climate-change modeling. To date, greenhouse gas emission models have been on a global scale. ?This is the first time this has been done on a regional level and will be a tremendous piece of information for California,? Guido Franco, CEC climate change project manager, said. Another $3 million in contracts with the UC regents were also approved. One is a $2 million research project that aims to reduce bird kills at the Altamont Pass wind farms. The other is a $1 million project that focuses on measures to minimize fish impacts at hydropower projects. The latter project could benefit the 5,000 MW of hydropower projects in the state up for relicensing by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission through 2015. Bird loss at the turbine-filled Altamont pass has been a long-standing controversy. ?This could be the limiting factor on wind development in the state,? warned CEC member Jim Boyd. The project also aims to boost the repowering of wind turbines and increase capacity in the area. Two contracts with the California State University Trustees also won unanimous votes. One deal was for $3 million for the Energy Innovations Small Grant Program. An additional $749,000 will be dispersed to the top 10 innovative grant applicants. The UC Office of the President won a $2.5 million contract extension for a demand-response project on thermostats and meters. A $2.6 million loan to the city of Fresno for two 665 kW PV systems and efficiency projects was among the mix of approved proposals. The project is expected to save $282,000 a year. Napa County will receive an $800,000 loan for two 75 kW cogeneration units and efficiency work, estimated to save $85,000 each year. Distributed Utility Associates won a contract for nearly $3 million for a project to allow distributed energy projects to be hooked safely into the distribution system. A $1.2 million sole-source contract with photovoltaic developer PowerLight for a patented PV tracking system also was given a green light. The goal is to reduce the initial high cost of PV for customers and improve output. Also approved was a $2 million demonstration project with Clean Energy Systems. The company will test a 5 MW gas-fired ?zero emission? technology at a small plant near Bakersfield, known as Kimberlina. The technology is supposed to sequester carbon dioxide emissions. It was going to be used at Mirant?s Contra Costa project, but the generator?s bankruptcy made it infeasible. The Sacramento Municipal Utility District and Norway are interested in the project outcome.