California prisons are adapting their safety focus to include protecting the environment.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) announced Oct. 9, 2008, a solar energy plan in response to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's Green Initiative Executive Order.

Sixteen projects are under way that will save 25 million kilowatt hours annually at CDCR facilities. These projects are expected to be completed by the end of 2008 and are estimated to save state taxpayers $3.2 million annually, according to the press release.

"These energy conservation and retrofit projects are great examples of the innovative public-private partnerships that I envisioned when issuing my Green Initiative Executive Order," Schwarzenegger said in the press release. "By utilizing green technology, our prison system is improving the environment and maximizing taxpayer dollars, and it is my hope that others across the state and nation will follow this example."

The CDCR also announced that six prisons, including Wasco State Prison, will house solar power fields, each producing more than one megawatt of electricity per year - enough electricity to power 226 homes. According to the report, Ironwood and Chuckawala Valley state prisons currently have solar fields installed that provide 25 percent of each penitentiary's power at times of peak demand.

Other projects include heating, ventilating, and air conditioning units; lighting retrofits; and motor upgrades. The report said $6.5 million of this project is funded by investor-owned utilities, including Pacific Gas and Electric Co., Southern California Edison Co., Southern California Gas Co. and San Diego Gas and Electric Co.

Elaine Rundle  |  Staff Writer