Merced County is capitalizing on its ideal location for solar access with the launch of a solar field that recently became operational. The 1.4 megawatt solar array was constructed to power correctional facilities and officials are commending the big savings that the solar field will provide. To be precise, the county is expected to save around $14 million over the next 25 years on utility costs and the county will also receive solar production rebates worth $1.5 million. It is the first project of its kind in the county and officials expect to work towards similar upgrades in the future. County officials approved the project to create greater independence from high electric utility costs, which affect taxpayers in the region. The Merced Sun Star reports on the project:
“The Board of Supervisors approved a contract with Siemens — a company that specializes in energy technology — in 2010 to design and construct the array and issued another contract to Siemens to maintain and operate the array for the next five years, assistant public works director Richard Schwarz said. […] The upgrade is one of several aimed at reducing the cost of running county facilities, Schwarz said. Savings from the solar development will be deposited into a fund for other capital improvement projects across the county, which may include future energy upgrades.”
Overall the project involved 6,272 solar panels and in the future the county may consider having inmates maintain the solar field to further cut down on costs. During peak hours, the solar panels will allow the correctional facilities to offset 70 percent of the electrical costs.