Siemens Solar Energy System Powering California Correctional Facilities

Merced County officials recently held a ceremony to “throw the switch” on its 1.4-MW solar PV array which will generate enough electricity to power the county’s correctional facilities. The system, developed and installed by Siemens Building Technologies Division began delivering power to the facility located in El Nido, Calif., on October 21.

Merced County contracted with Siemens group to deliver the solar PV system, designed to provide approximately 70 percent of the facilities’ peak electricity consumption. Additionally, Siemens delivered comprehensive lighting upgrades to the entire complex, a project element that will yield significant energy efficiencies and help maximize the project’s overall return on investment.

“We are thrilled to be turning on a new era of sustainability for Merced County citizens. I think all will agree we have made a solid investment that will yield tremendous fiscal and environmental benefits to the county and its citizens for decades to come,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman John Pedrozo. “The economics of the system could not be better. We can expect more than $300,000 in equivalent electricity savings every year and a net positive cash flow that over 25 years will reach, according to projections, nearly $9 million.”

The county’s solar array is designed to generate enough power to offset the correctional facilities’ electricity consumption. The County Board has also instituted a policy to have money saved by the solar project deposited in a fund for other countywide capital improvements. The improvements are expected to include future energy-efficient upgrades at all County facilities. In pursuing the project Merced County set a goal to use local businesses wherever possible. Siemens subcontracted with Collins Electric, Suntrek, Phase One Construction and Volvo Rents to complete the project. For a separate lighting upgrade project Siemens subcontracted with OSRAM SYLVANIA, a Siemens company.

Two triangular-shaped arrays deploying 6,272 solar panels were installed on 4.5 acres adjacent to the John Latorraca Correctional Facility and the Iris Garrett Juvenile Justice Correctional Complex. One array produces 600 kW and the other 800 kW of electricity. According to project planners, the county will realize the following benefits:

  • Solar incentives over 5 years, totaling $1,578,610
  • Electrical utility savings over 25 years, estimated totaling $13,892,500
  • Total positive cash flow to county over 25 years = $8,685,000
  • PG&E Capital Improvement Rebate eligibility

According to Siemens Greenhouse Gas Calculator, the solar PV system and the energy-efficient lighting upgrades will reduce CO2 emissions by approximately 999.85 tons.

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