California Adds Solar Power to State Facilities

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The California Department of General Services (DGS) announced last week that it has completed two solar power installation projects at a state-run prison and state hospital in Coalinga, Calif.

The solar power projects have the potential to generate 3.22 megawatts (MW) of electricity combined — 1.22MW at the Pleasant Valley State Prison and 2MW at the Coalinga State Hospital.

“State agencies manage approximately 1,700 facilities that use about $200 million worth of electricity and natural gas every year,” said DGS Director Fred Klass in a statement. “Efficient operation of state facilities, including on-site renewable energy generation, is critical to achieving Governor Brown’s climate goals.”
The solar installation is expected to provide 24 percent of the electricity at DSH-Coalinga during its first year, according to the Department of State Hospitals’ Director Cliff Allenby. The use of solar energy is projected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 61,000 metric tons in 2014 and will save taxpayers approximately $78 million in energy costs over the next 20 years.
“Pleasant Valley is one of 12 prison sites that use solar-generated electricity, as part of our larger program to make all of our facilities as low-polluting and energy efficient as possible,” said Deborah Hysen, acting director of facility planning, construction and management and construction for the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, in a statement.
DGS estimates that state agencies will have approximately 38MW of solar power installed at state facilities by the end of this year. That’s enough electricity to power about 7,800 California homes, according to the California Energy Commission.
The solar power projects that have already been installed had no up-front costs to the state via a power purchase agreement. Under this agreement, the solar provider installs solar power systems using third-party financing and then sells the renewable electricity generated by the solar panels at a competitive cost to the host facility.
Executive Order B-18-12 set by California Gov. Jerry Brown directs state agencies to reduce their energy purchases from the grid by 20 percent. In addition to solar power, state agencies are also exploring the use of wind turbines and other technologies. Additionally, agencies are improving energy efficiency at state-owned buildings through retrofits of lighting and mechanical systems, along with designing and building new state facilities and major renovations to achieve LEED.