Sun Power & Geothermal Energy was awarded a contract for US$8.4 million to design and build a one-MW solar photovoltaic (PV) system for the Butte County Center in Oroville, California, the county seat. According to Sun Power & Geothermal Energy, when it is commissioned in June 2004, the Butte County solar system will be one of the top-ten largest solar energy systems in the U.S.San Rafael, California – December 3, 2003 [SolarAccess.com] Four solar arrays will power three buildings: the Butte County Administration building, the East Jail and the West Jail. The solar system will feature a variety of installation methods including two ground-mount arrays, one rooftop array, and solar panels mounted on newly installed parking shade structures for a county parking lot. The solar system will provide 100 percent of the power for the three buildings. Funding for the solar system will be matched 50 percent by a renewable energy rebate from the Self-Generation Incentive Program of Public Gas & Electric (PG&E), the local utility, administered by the California Public Utilities Commission. “The people of Butte County should be credited for building a model of energy independence for other California communities,” said Dan Thompson, president of Sun Power & Geothermal Energy. “With this large solar energy system, Butte County will be very close to achieving zero energy growth. The solar system also has environmental benefits for the whole area, and is a powerful educational opportunity for students and the public to learn about energy and especially about solar.” Sun Power will install over 9,000 Sharp 185-watt solar modules for the system, made by Sharp Solar, a subsidiary of Sharp Electronics Corporation. Xantrex inverters will be used for the project. The system was designed and engineered in-house by Sun Power and will be installed by Sun Power crews. “Sharp is very enthusiastic about working with Butte County on this solar system, an example of the latest solar technology in service to the public,” said Ron Kenedi, General Manager of Sharp’s Solar Systems Division. “Sharp is also very pleased and proud to be associated with an excellent system designed and built by Sun Power & Geothermal Energy.” Sun Power engineered the solar system to generate more power than the buildings need during peak demand hours. Under California’s net metering regulations, public utilities must credit energy producers for the electricity they send out to the grid, also know as Net Metering. On sunny days the solar system will send the extra energy it generates to the grid and earn credit with PG&E. At night or on rainy days PG&E will provide the power and Butte County will tap into the credit earned while the sun was shining. The four PV arrays combined with the sunny-day credit will eliminate the annual net electric bill for each of the buildings. According to Sun Power & Geothermal Energy, the 1-MW Butte County solar system will replace the equivalent energy used by 400 California homes, leaving that energy on the grid for use by other ratepayers. The solar system will prevent 1,250 tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the atmosphere each year by a typical gas-fired power plant. It takes 100 acres of trees to absorb that much carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere annually. The arrays will be individually monitored with a live, web-based solar output monitoring system developed by Sun Power. The monitor delivers actual power production in AC watts through a secure web site. Sun Power customers view the live data online to verify system performance, energy cost savings and return on investment (ROI). Sun Power designed the solar arrays to be tilted at the angle that collects the most sunlight throughout the year. Tilted panels also allow cooling air to flow over their back and front. PV panels are made of silicon, and like computer chips are more efficient when they are kept cool, because heat causes electrical resistance and decreased electric production. Tilted solar arrays also shed dirt and stay clean to absorb more sunlight. Along with abundant hydroelectric resources, Butte County will host over two MW of solar photovoltaic power when the Butte County Center is complete. The city of Oroville, California, boasts that it has more installed solar energy per capita than any other community in America, and declared itself Solar City USA by mayoral proclamation on Earth Day 2003.