Solar Power for Yolo County Jails

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SunPower Tracker system for solar panels
The SunPower Tracker system follows the sun’s movement during the day, increasing sunlight capture by up to 25 percent over conventional fixed-tilt systems.

The Yolo County Justice Campus in Woodland, California, including the Monroe Detention Center (county jail) and the Juvenile Detention Facility, is now partially powered by a 1-megawatt solar photovoltaic project. The solar power system, which was completed six weeks ahead of schedule, utilizes SunPower solar panels with the SunPower Tracker system. The Tracker follows the sun’s movement during the day, increasing sunlight capture by up to 25 percent over conventional fixed-tilt systems, while significantly reducing land use requirements.

“This new solar project is just one more step we have taken as local government in recent years to reduce our carbon footprint,” said Yolo County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Helen M. Thomson. “From 2006 to 2009 we reduced our greenhouse gas emissions by 38%, returning the county to mid-1980 levels. This solar system at the justice campus will take us to 50% by 2011.”

Yolo County, which owns the system and associated renewable energy credits, financed the purchase using multiple funding sources, including clean renewable energy bonds and qualified energy conservation bonds available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. In addition to the subsidized bonds, financed by Bank of America, SunPower assisted Yolo County in securing a 15-year loan from the California Energy Commission. All costs for the project are covered through utility savings, expected to amount to at least $8.7 million over the assumed 25-year life of the project.

According to the Department of Energy this is the first known solar project to use Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds (QECBs), and subsequently the first known combination of QECBs with Clean Renewable Energy Bonds. Based on formulas provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the system is expected to avoid more than 2.2 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions each year, equivalent to the emissions displaced from removing over 5,700 cars from California’s roads over the life of the system.

“With the funding we secured as a result of the 2009 federal stimulus bill and the California Energy Commission loan, Yolo County has no out-of-pocket expenses to build this project, and will be net cash flow positive from the first day of the system’s operation,” said Thomson. “Savings over the next 25 years are estimated to be about $8.8 million, directly benefiting Yolo County residents and businesses. State and federal funding has helped make solar power an easy, affordable means to reduce county operational costs as well as our dependence on fossil fuels.”

“This may be the first solar project to make use of the federal stimulus legislation’s clean energy renewable bonds, established last year, and among the first large-scale solar projects to be funded by a California Energy Commission loan,” said Bill Kelly, managing director at SunPower. “Yolo County is using the federal and state funding to save money, create jobs and produce clean energy for years to come. We are thrilled to be supporting the county with the implementation of SunPower’s proven, high performing technology, ensuring impressive savings for years to come.”

With this project, Bank of America adds Yolo County to its growing list of clients, especially California governmental and educational entities, who have benefited from various state and federal government solar tax incentives. Bank of America focuses on such projects as part of its $20 billion, 10-year initiative to address global climate change.

“We congratulate Yolo County for taking this step toward increasing its reliance on renewable energy while also improving its fiscal efficiency,” said John Rudberg, Energy Services sales executive for Bank of America Public Capital Corp. “This is a great example of the type of energy projects our national and state governments are encouraging through tax policies. Bank of America is pleased to be a leader in working with energy services providers such as SunPower to help local governments improve our environment while saving local tax dollars.”

Yolo County, located in northern California and encompassing a total area of 1,021 square miles, remains a relatively rural agricultural region outside its incorporated cities of Davis, West Sacramento, Winters, and Woodland. Through the Yolo County Climate Change Compact, the county partners with its cities, school districts, and the University of California at Davis to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through energy efficiency and the promotion of renewable energy alternatives. From 2006 to 2009, through aggressive actions by the Board of Supervisors, Yolo County reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 38% through various efforts. This new solar system will take Yolo County to a 50% reduction by 2011, returning the County to mid-1980 carbon generation levels.

SunPower Corp. designs, manufactures, and delivers solar technology to residential, business, government, and utility customers. With headquarters in San Jose, California, SunPower has offices in North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia.

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