The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) today announced that solar energy fields that generate electrical power for four of its prisons are now running at full capacity, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions and saving $45 million in energy costs over the next 20 years.
“These solar fields benefit the environment and show a responsible stewardship of taxpayer dollars,” CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate said. “These solar fields will prevent a billion pounds of greenhouse gases from being emitted to the air and make the prisons less reliant on power generated by natural gas and nuclear sources.” A dedication ceremony was held today at North Kern State Prison, one of the institutions powered by solar energy.
Approximately 56,000 solar panels, which generate 14 megawatts of power, were constructed adjacent to the four prisons at no cost to taxpayers by Sun Edison Corp. In return, CDCR purchases the electrical power from Sun Edison at discounted rates, which results in reduced energy costs. (14 megawatts of power is roughly equivalent to the energy required to power at least 45,000 homes.)
In addition to North Kern State Prison in Delano, solar fields are generating power for Chuckawalla Valley and Ironwood state prisons in Blythe and the California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi. A fifth field of photovoltaic panels are currently under construction at California State Prison, Los Angeles in Lancaster and an expansion of the Tehachapi field will add approximately 3.3 megawatts of power by early 2013.
The State of California also has awarded contracts to Sun Edison to construct an additional 20 megawatts of solar capacity at other prisons in Northern California. Those sites are still being evaluated and have the potential to reduce CDCR’s electrical costs by an additional $45 million over 20 years.
The solar fields are part of CDCR’s “Going Green Initiative” which includes recycling and water conservation projects that improve energy efficiency in all 33 prisons by reducing electricity and natural gas use. All of the energy saving projects are paid for without the use of state general fund tax dollars and are financed with low- or no-interest loans, such as those from Federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding.