California Prison Activates Solar Power Plant

Plant to help prison comply with Gov. Schwarzenegger's Executive Order S-20-04.

by / June 6, 2008

Ironwood State Prison Activates Solar Power Plant

Plant to help prison comply with Executive Order S-20-04.

This past week, Ironwood State Prison (Ironwood) and
SunEdison announced the activation of a new 1.18 megawatt (MW) ground-mounted photovoltaic solar power system. The solar system will produce no greenhouse gases, no noise and will use little to no water in operation.

The photovoltaic system, which will deliver 2.4 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of clean renewable energy in the first year of operation, was deployed through a public-private partnership between the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and SunEdison, North America's largest solar energy services provider.

SunEdison financed, constructed and agreed operate the solar energy system. As a result, the CDCR avoids all upfront capital costs and will purchase the solar energy at predictable prices equal to or less than current retail rates.

Activation of the zero-emission solar energy system is a major step for Ironwood in meeting the CDCR's energy management goals as well as Governor Schwarzenegger's Executive Order S-20-04. The order mandates that State agencies evaluate the merits of using clean and renewable on-site energy generation technologies in all new building or large renovation projects, and take measures to reduce grid-based energy purchases for state-owned buildings by 20 percent by 2015, through cost-effective efficiency measures and distributed generation technologies. Over twenty years of operation, the Ironwood system is expected to produce more than 43 million kWh of solar energy, the equivalent to powering 4,107 homes and removing 3,770 cars off the road for one year.

"This system at Ironwood has more than 6,200 [photovoltaic] panels that utilize the sun, our greatest natural resource. Plus, they require little to no water to operate, which makes [photovoltaic] a perfect solar technology for this region. In the first year, the system will produce more than 2.4 million kilowatt hours of clean renewable solar energy. That has an immediate beneficial impact upon our environment."

"Leveraging our most plentiful natural resource - the desert sun - while protecting a limited local resource - water - makes both environmental and fiscal sense for Ironwood and California taxpayers. This partnership with SunEdison makes it possible for Ironwood Prison to be the community's host for solar energy," Ironwood Warden Debra Dexter said.

"The power of this innovative public-private partnership allows us to meet the environmental goals of both the CDCR and of the State of California. We're helping to clean the air, and simultaneously relieve some of the ever increasing pressure on the electric utility grid," said CDCR's Deborah Hysen, Chief Deputy Secretary, Facilities, Planning and Construction.

Ironwood is the second photovoltaic system SunEdison is managing under an agreement for CDCR. In June 2006, SunEdison activated a 1.16 MW solar power system at Chuckawalla Valley State Prison. The system at Chuckawalla has produced more than 3.7 million kWh since commercial activation. Over 20 years of production, the system will offset 31,627,817 lbs of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of removing 3,100 cars from the road. It will produce 35,981,589 kWh over 20 years, the equivalent of powering 3,377 homes for one year.