Most of the County Operations Center has been rebuilt from the ground up in recent years. But cranes still dot the campus on occasion outside of buildings that have long been finished and opened to the public. So what’s going on?
Thousands of solar panels, also known as photovoltaic panels, are being installed on top of six buildings as part of the County’s renewable energy plan. The COC project began last July and is scheduled to finish next March.
Once completed, the system will catch rays that generate 2.2 megawatts of clean renewable power, more than 30% of the electricity used by the entire COC campus. On top of that, a 400-kilowatt battery system is being installed on the campus’ north side.
The battery system will offset SDG&E’s increased rates during periods of high demand. The battery will switch on as needed each day when campus energy use gets too high, eliminating most of those costs.
Between the solar panels and the battery, the system is expected to cut the COC’s annual electricity bill up to $220,000 each year.
Under a power purchase agreement, Sun Power builds, operates and maintains the COC system at no cost to the County. In turn, the County agrees to buy all the renewable power generated at a price well below current and anticipated future SDG&E rates.
“This system is an important piece of the County’s overall renewable energy plan,” said Energy and Sustainability Program Chief Charley Marchesano. “The ultimate goal is to generate at least 20% of the County’s total energy load from onsite renewable sources by 2030.”
Various other County facilities boast photovoltaic systems, too, including some at County parks. And there are more to come. Solar panels will be added to the Santa Ysabel Nature Center and Lindo Lake Park next year.
The East Mesa Juvenile Detention Facility has a 1 MW array. A photovoltaic system was energized at the South Bay Regional Center last year providing nearly 1.5 MW of additional clean renewable power. Solar panels went up at the newly constructed Borrego Springs Library and a project at the Rancho San Diego Library is underway right now.
What’s next? The North County Regional Center, the Edgemoor Skilled Nursing Facility and the Rancho San Diego Sheriff Station. Finishing up the list of major solar projects will be a return to the East Mesa Juvenile Detention Facility to expand its solar installation and double its current energy output.
All told, the County is currently generating more than 6% of its total operating electricity from renewable onsite sources. That equates to removing 1,664 metric tons of carbon dioxide from the environment just last year or taking 362 gas-powered cars off our local roads.
To find out more about the County’s overall sustainability efforts, visit the climate action plan website.