San Diego Uses Solar for Energy Independence

The San Diego Environmental Services Operations Station administration building now operates on solar power, the city’s first use of photovoltaic (PV) panels that will generate enough energy to operate a municipal building.

San Diego, California – November 7, 2002 [] “We are making great strides toward achieving my goal number nine, energy independence for the city of San Diego,” Mayor Dick Murphy said. “Part of goal number nine is developing sources of energy that will not damage our environment. These photovoltaic panels, designed as two carports over the Operations Station’s administration building parking lot, are a perfect example of technology that takes advantage of San Diego’s sunny weather for the clean production of electricity.” The newly installed PV array consists of 468 panels with each panel generating approximately 140 W of electricity. The entire structure will produce approximately 91,950 kWh per year to power the administration building, which currently uses 87,000 kWh of energy per year. The city will save US$16,551 annually in energy expenses that would have been used to cover energy costs of this building. The reduction in energy used from the grid will lower the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) that is emitted in the air annually by 94 tons, which is equivalent to the emissions produced from 23 cars on the road today or the amount of CO2 absorbed by about 26 acres of trees in one year. The energy generated from the PV panels will also make this administration building the city’s first “net metered” facility which is a billing agreement with San Diego Gas & Electric. On an annual basis this array will produce approximately the same amount of energy the building will utilize in one year. This is referred to a “net zero” facility. To fund the PV installation the City received US$263,925 from the California Energy Commission (CEC). The total cost of the project is US$681,415 but with the additional funding the total cost to the city is $417,490. “Upfront costs to install solar panels are significant and the payback period on a project like ours can be as long as 25 years, but I believe it is a wise use of city dollars,” said Murphy. “There is a limited supply of fossil fuels and burning these fuels can have enormous long-term damaging impacts on our air quality. When you measure potential costs associated with managing future health problems that could arise from decreased air quality to the dollars we spend now to install this type of photovoltaic system that will not produce harmful emissions, it’s clear this investment will be less costly and have huge long-term benefits.”