Alameda County, just east of San Francisco, has added a new 250 KW solar power plant at the Santa Rita County Jail, which uses a new technology to track the sun on its daily journey across the sky. Backers of the project say it will knock an estimated $2.2 million off the county’s electricity bill over the next 25 years, while lessening the county’s environmental footprint.
“It’s exciting to have Alameda County use our tracking system to expand the use of solar power at the Santa Rita Jail,” said Solaria CEO Dan Shugar. The county is using Solaria’s patented tracking system and panels.
The Solaria STS-Azimuth tracking system consists of the company’s patented concentrating solar photovoltaic panels, solar tracking system, and specialized design services. Solaria’s concentrating solar panels multiply the energy yield of silicon while increasing energy generation performance. The Solaria trackers ensure that the Solaria panels take full advantage of available solar energy by following the sun’s path across the sky throughout the day. Trackers produce up to 30% more energy than fixed arrays.
“By utilizing Solaria’s unique solar tracking technology, we have been able to increase the jail’s renewable energy generation capacity by over 50%,” said Matt Muniz, Alameda County energy program manager.
Last month, Alameda County unveiled a microgrid that enables the county’s Santa Rita Jail to sustain power should its connection to the utility grid be interrupted. The $11.7 million project, known as a smart grid, will allow Santa Rita Jail to ensure it has a supply of reliable electricity for its daily operations and security, and will save the county approximately $100,000 per year in energy costs. Chevron Energy Solutions designed, developed and built the project, which was funded in part by the U.S. Department of Energy, the California Energy Commission and the California Public Utilities Commission. The smart grid is the first of its kind in the country.
“Throughout our history, Alameda County has worked to integrate pioneering technologies into our operations,” said Alameda County Sheriff Gregory J. Ahern. “The smart grid and new solar tracking systems at Santa Rita Jail continue that tradition, improving the community’s grid stability while consistently providing a safe, secure and humane environment for inmates and staff.”
The smart grid and solar tracking projects are the culmination of several renewable energy projects in use at the jail, including rooftop solar photovoltaic panels, a 1 MW fuel cell cogeneration plant, and wind turbines, along with a 2 MW advanced energy storage system.
The California Energy Commission provided nearly $2 million in funding for Alameda County’s smart grid project, through its Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program. In addition, the California Public Utility Commission’s CSI Research, Development and Deployment Program funded the solar tracking project with over $600,000 in grant funding. These programs support alternative energy public interest research and development in California