California Detention Center Harnesses Solar Power

AUBURN, Calif. — Placer County Juvenile Detention Center will generate its own electricity when officials flip the switch on a 1.25-acre field of solar panels.

Solar Power Inc., of Roseville, Calif., recently completed work on the 400-kilowatt solar-array installation, which features 2,424 photovoltaic panels manufactured by Sharp Electronics Corporation.

“Our design team was able to develop a system that meets the county board of supervisors economic and environmental goals,” says Steve Kircher, CEO of Solar Power Inc.

The county entered into a power-purchase agreement with Solar Power, which will operate the solar-power system for 10 years. Under the terms of the agreement, which allowed the county to avoid an up-front capital investment to develop the system, Solar Power will sell energy to the county at predetermined discounted rates.

(Above) A vacant county lot was transformed into a solar-panel field to supply green energy to the adjacent juvenile detention facility.  (Below)  The ground-mounted solar array consists of more than 2,400 165-watt photovoltaic cells.

The county will also pay $50,000 per year to Solar Power over the initial 10-year period, before assuming ownership of the system and generating its own power. The project is estimated to generate approximately $3 million in revenue for the company.

“The primary goal of this system has been to eliminate our dependency on grid-sourced electricity and the cost it represents to our county,” says Tom Miller, Placer County ‘s executive officer. “It represents a true union of environmental conservation and fiscal responsibility.”

With net-metering, surplus electricity generated by the system during daylight hours will be redirected to the power grid, yielding electricity credits for the county.

“A photovoltaic installation of this size and scope has a positive impact on our environment and the county’s bottom line,” says Jim Durfee, the county’s director of facilities. “This is a project that from all aspects meets the mission of our board of supervisors.”

In addition to the ground-mounted solar arrays, the system features three 125-kilowatt inverters that convert direct current electricity generated by the photovoltaic panels into standard alternating current electricity for use in the 43,000-square-foot detention facility.

In order to maximize and maintain power-generating performance, the system design incorporates self-cleaning components to keep the photovoltaic modules free of dust and grime.

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