Two-year Returns Help Propel New Solar Ambitions

One of the nation’s largest solar electric systems — located in Alameda County — is exceeding expectations for peak demand reduction since the system went live over two years ago. These positive results have helped convince the county to make major new commitments to solar energy.

In April of 2002, Alameda County dedicated its 1.2 MW solar array atop the County Jail in Dublin, California. This solar electric system, designed and installed by PowerLight Corporation, generates enough electricity during the daytime to power more than 1,000 homes during the project’s equivalent generating hours. “Since the dedication, Alameda County’s solar electric system has produced a summer peak demand reduction as high as 879 kW, well above projections,” said Alameda County Energy Manager Matt Muniz. “This demand reduction equates to an overall cost savings of over $1.2 million, when factoring in energy efficiency savings and the kilowatt-hours produced by the system.” The total electric cost savings has exceeded original expectations because of better-than-expected peak demand reduction by solar generation, according to PowerLight. The grid-connected system reduces the County’s electrical load, especially during peak demand times when the utility grid is the most strained and electricity is most expensive. The project also provides clean, reliable power in one of the region’s fastest growing communities. “We’re extremely pleased with the performance of our 1.2 megawatt PowerLight solar array; it’s provided the ideal alternative energy solution for us,” Keith Carson, president of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, said. “In fact, we’re so pleased with its track record that we’ve commissioned an additional 1.11 megawatts of new solar generation, spanning six sites throughout the County.” Thanks to its forward-looking renewable energy initiatives, Alameda County will soon be meeting 6 percent of its electrical needs at County-owned facilities. In doubling its solar deployment, the county will soon lead the nation’s counties in terms of solar use, generating a total of 2.29 MW of power. “We applaud Alameda County’s leadership and vision in implementing smart energy strategies using clean solar electric power and energy conservation,” said PowerLight president Dan Shugar. “Alameda County is demonstrating how local governments can improve air quality while saving taxpayers’ dollars.” By avoiding purchases of expensive peak electricity, it is anticipated that the combined solar generation and energy efficiency measures will generate $15 million in net savings for Alameda County over the next 25 years.
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