SLO County installs new solar panels off Highway 1

Six acres of 3,294 newly installed solar panels near the San Luis Obispo County Operations Center on Highway 1 will lead the county to its renewable energy goals while saving electricity costs.

Six acres of 3,294 newly installed solar panels near the San Luis Obispo County Operations Center on Highway 1 will lead the county to its renewable energy goals while saving electricity costs.

There’s a new array of solar panels on the side of Highway 1 in San Luis Obispo County.

The six acres of 3,294 newly installed solar panels in the San Luis Obispo county operations center will lead the county to its renewable energy goals while saving electricity costs, the county said.

The 1.2 megawatt solar project will power 12 facilities in the county, including the county jail, the Juvenile Services Center, the sheriff’s office and other public works, information services and fleet facilities at the County Operations Center on Kansas Avenue.

“This project is a significant step forward in achieving our county goal of getting 20% ​​of our energy from renewable sources,” said Annie Secrest, San Luis Obispo County Energy and Water Coordinator, in a press release distributed Tuesday.

Three years ago, according to Secrest, the district did not receive any electricity from renewable sources. Now, with the addition of the new solar park, the county gets more than 12% of its electricity from renewable sources, she said.

This is not the first field of solar panels to be installed along Highway 1 north of San Luis Obispo. Cal Poly gets about 25% of its electricity from an 18.5-acre 4.5-megawatt solar farm, which was completed in 2018 and is located near the California men’s colony.

Under a power purchase agreement, the county solar panel project was developed and owned by ForeFront Power, a solar and energy storage company based in San Francisco. This means that, according to a press release, the district will buy the electricity produced there at a fixed price per kilowatt hour.

“This enables the county to buy electricity at a lower price than it could get from the local utility and without incurring the up-front or ongoing costs of installing the solar project,” the press release said.

The county is paying $ 0.099 per kilowatt-hour for the electricity from the solar panels, Secrest said, which is much lower than the $ 0.2312 it previously paid for the electricity.

Secrest noted that an added bonus is that the cost of electricity for the solar panels remains stable year after year, while the prices of utility companies like PG&E tend to go up every year.

Over the next 20 years, the solar panels are expected to offset nearly 74 million pounds of carbon dioxide normally released into the atmosphere through fossil fuel power-burning methods – and save the county an estimated $ 6 million in net savings.

“The sheriff’s office spends about half a million dollars a year on electricity out here on Kansas Avenue,” said Ian Parkinson, sheriff of San Luis Obispo County, in a video announcing the completion of the new solar farm. “This field here offers the opportunity to complement this service, and we get around 75% of the products made here to offset our costs. So this will save taxpayers and allow us to keep the lights on and ensure public safety for the county. “

The solar panel project “generates enough electricity to avoid an additional 1,735 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year,” according to a press release on the panels. “This is roughly equivalent to the annual distance of 375 gas-powered passenger cars from the road, or the amount of carbon captured by 2,266 hectares of nearby forest in one year.”

County supervisor Bruce Gibson said in the video that there may be more solar panel projects as well as energy saving measures in the future.

“San Luis Obispo County is an innovator, a midsize county that has done a lot of really exciting things in the past few years,” he said. “The solar project is one of the things I’m particularly proud of.”

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Mackenzie Shuman writes primarily on Cal Poly, SLO County Education, and the environment for The Tribune. Originally from Monument, Colorado, she graduated from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in May 2020. When not writing, Mackenzie spends time outside of hiking, running, and climbing.

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