Merced County officials said they are about to switch on a 1.4 megawatt solar array to power correctional facilities in Merced County near El Nido.
The switch will be thrown at 10 a.m., Tuesday at the Correctional Facility at 2584 W. Sandy Mush Road.
Two triangular arrays deploying 6,272 solar panels were installed on 4.5 acres next to the John Latorraca Correctional Facility and the Iris Garrett Juvenile Justice Correctional Complex. One array produces 600 kilowatts of electricity and the other makes 800 kilowatts.
The public is invited to attend the ceremony and view the solar arrays.
Merced County contracted with Siemens Industry Inc. Clean Energy Projects to deliver the solar photovoltaic system. It's designed to provide around 70 percent of the facilities' peak electricity consumption.
"We are thrilled to be switching on the system and 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," Board of Supervisors Chairman John Pedrozo said in a news release.
"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," Pedrozo said.
In 2009, the average annual electricity consumption for a U.S. residential utility customer was 10,896 kilowatt hours, an average of 908 kilowatt hours a month, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The board's policy is to have money saved by the solar project deposited in a fund for other countywide capital improvements. The improvements can also include future energy-efficient upgrades at all county facilities.
The county's goal, according to the news release, is to use local businesses wherever possible. Siemens subcontracted with Collins Electric, Suntrek, Phase One Construction and Volvo Rents for the solar project. For a separate lighting upgrade project, Siemens subcontracted with Sylvania.
No general fund money has been used on the project. The system's construction is being paid for by tobacco securitization funds specifically designated for capital improvements at county facilities, the news release said. 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, the solar system and the energy-efficient lighting upgrades will reduce CO2 emissions by about 999.85 tons.