Solar energy powering County of Merced correctional facilities

December 13, 2011 |
Tim Gregorski

The solar PV system is designed to provide approximately 70% of the facilities peak electricity consumption.

Merced County, Calif., officials recently held a ceremony to turn on its 1.4 megawatt solar photovoltaic (PV) array, which will generate enough electricity to power the county’s correctional facilities.

The solar energy system, developed and installed by Siemens Building Technologies Division began delivering power to the facility in late October.

Merced County contracted with Siemens group to deliver the solar PV system, designed to provide approximately 70% of the facilities’ peak electricity consumption.

Additionally, Siemens delivered comprehensive lighting upgrades to the entire complex, a project element that will yield energy efficiencies and maximize the project’s overall return on investment.

“The economics of the system could not be better. We can expect more than $300,000 in equivalent electricity savings every year and a net positive cash flow that over 25 years will reach, according to projections, nearly $9 million,” says Board of Supervisors Chairman John Pedrozo.

The county’s solar array is designed to generate enough power to offset the correctional facilities’ electricity consumption. The County Board has also instituted a policy to have money saved by the solar project deposited in a fund for other countywide capital improvements.

The improvements are expected to include future energy-efficient upgrades at all County facilities. In pursuing the project Merced County set a goal to use local businesses wherever possible.

Siemens subcontracted with Collins Electric, Suntrek, Phase One Construction and Volvo Rents to complete the project. For a separate lighting upgrade project Siemens subcontracted with OSRAM SYLVANIA, a Siemens company.

Two triangular-shaped arrays deploying 6,272 solar panels were installed on 4.5 acres adjacent to the John Latorraca Correctional Facility and the Iris Garrett Juvenile Justice Correctional Complex. One array produces 600 kW and the other 800 kW of electricity.

According to project planners, the county will realize the following benefits:

  • Solar Incentives over 5 years, totaling $1,578,610
  • Electrical Utility Savings over 25 Years, Estimated totaling $13,892,500
  • Total Positive cash flow to County over 25 Years = $8,685,000

According to Siemens Greenhouse Gas Calculator, the solar PV system and the energy-efficient lighting upgrades will reduce CO2 emissions by approximately 999.85 tons. BD+C

Tim Gregorski | Products at Work

Tim Gregorski is Senior Editor for Building Design+Construction. He can be reached at

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