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BERKELEY, CA-The nation’s largest roof-mounted solar array is being installed atop Alameda County’s Santa Rita Jail. The alternative power project is being performed in conjunction with various energy efficiency projects to help the county achieve its goals of reducing and stabilizing future energy costs.

The 500-kilowatt system is already partially up and running. It will be completed in late July. “The Santa Rita Roof Top Solar Project will generate clean, reliable, and renewable electrical power for the jail. It is just another exciting step in the County’s overall energy management program that started some twelve years ago,” says Matt Muniz, Energy Program Manager, County of Alameda. “Depending on the time of year, this system will provide between 15 to 20% of the jail’s electrical needs, reducing the cost of electricity, that would have been bought from the local utility, by $300,000 annually over the next 30 years.”

Muniz also says that by adopting smart, innovative technologies to reduce the county will save on energy consumption and save taxpayer dollars and that this project is the first of many anticipated solar installations on Alameda County’s buildings. He added that the Alameda County project takes a two-fold approach to reducing the Santa Rita Jail’s electric utility bill.

“The County is not only looking at expanding the solar array at Santa Rita Jail, but also at County facilities in Oakland,” says Muniz. “All County energy projects must meet or exceed a 10% IRR, in order for the County to implement the project. We’ve always tried to run the County’s Energy Program like a “for profit” business, ensuring that the energy savings will more than cover the costs of the project.”

Clean energy is generated through a giant 500-Kilowatt “PowerGuard” solar installation consisting of approximately 4,000 roof tiles. The panels will significantly reduce Santa Rita Jail’s monthly electric bill by displacing utility electricity — and its resulting pollution — with clean, on-site solar power.

“This project cost $4 million to implement,” says Muniz. “Of that the solar array costs about $2.5 million, the energy efficiency modification to the chilled water plant (Air Conditioning) cost $1 million, and the resurfacing of the roof with a ‘cool roof membrane’ costs $500,000. With the incentives from the California Energy Commission, we expect to pay for the project in seven to eight years.”

The project, which will be completed in late July, will result in the annual generation of over 650,000 kilowatt-hours of clean energy, and reduce the jail’s electrical need by 890,000 kilowatt-hours annually.

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