WOODLAND, Calif. — Yolo County could save an estimated $9 million in energy costs following the completion of a one-megawatt solar installation that will supply power to the county’s justice center.
County officials worked with energy services firm SunPower Corp., based in San Jose, Calif., to install the solar energy system, which consists of 3,560 high-efficiency panels that track the sun to maintain optimal output throughout daylight hours. Solar systems that incorporate panels that track the sun through its entire arc can collect up to 25 percent more sunlight than fixed tilt panel solar arrays, according to the company.
Located northwest of Sacramento, the Yolo County Justice Center houses the Monroe Detention Center and Yolo’s juvenile detention facility, and other public offices.
County officials worked closely with SunPower to secure state and federal financing for the renewable energy project, allowing the county to avoid capital outlays. Funding sources included a 15-year low-interest loan from the California Energy Commission, as well as bonds secured under the clean energy provisions of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
“With the funding we secured as a result of the 2009 federal stimulus bill and the California Energy Commission loan, Yolo County has no out-of-pocket expenses to build this project, and will be net cash flow positive from the first day of the system’s operation,” says Helen Thomson, a member of the county board of supervisors.
“State and federal funding has helped make solar power an easy, affordable means to reduce county operational costs as well as our dependence on fossil fuels,” Thomson says.
The one-megawatt installation will supply enough renewable power to satisfy 80 percent of the justice center’s energy demands, generating cost savings of approximately $8.8 million over the 25-year life cycle of system, according to reports. The clean energy project will also reduce carbon emissions by about 2.2 million tons.
Since 2006, officials have implemented a range of measures that reduced Yolo County’s greenhouse gas emissions by almost 40 percent. Officials say that the justice center solar array will push that carbon footprint reduction close to 50 percent, returning the county to greenhouse gas generation levels equivalent to those of the 1980s.