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County Jail Doubles as Clean Energy Power Station

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July 25, 2011

In a Monday ceremony, Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Ron Roberts and County officials kicked off construction on a one-megawatt solar power system at the East Mesa Detention Complex in Otay Mesa.  

Soon to be the biggest photovoltaic system on County property, the system is expected to save the County more than $1.3 million in power costs over 20 years.

“As stewards of the taxpayers’ natural and financial resources, the County is constantly looking for green opportunities that make sense like this one,” Vice Chairman Roberts said. “More of the jail’s power will come from a clean, renewable source, and we’ll be saving money at the same time.”

Construction is expected to finish in November. The photovoltaic system will be mounted on nine steel canopies that spread across the parking lot and create shade for visitors’ cars. The solar panels will produce an estimated 1,629,761 kilowatt-hours of energy in the first year, or about 12 percent of the detention complex’s total power needs. 

The Otay Mesa detention complex includes the George Bailey Detention Center and the East Mesa Juvenile Detention Center.

When operational, the clean energy production represents offsetting about 1,124 metric tons of carbon- dioxide equivalent greenhouse gases that would otherwise enter the atmosphere each year. That’s equal to taking 220 cars off the road each year or planting 28,800 trees.

As part of a 20-year contract, SunEdison will build, own, operate and maintain the solar power system. In a power purchase agreement, the County will buy the system’s energy at below-market rate for use at the jail.

In February, officials turned on a 359 kilowatt SDG&E-owned solar system at the County Operations Center in Kearny Mesa. 

The County owns nine other photovoltaic systems that combine to provide about 686,969kilowatt-hours of energy to diverse facilities such as the North County Regional Center, the Fallbrook Community Center and the Ramona Library.