Alameda County, California Installs Country's Largest Solar System

October 02, 2002

Sun shining on field of horizontal PV panels.

Rated at 1.18 MW, this PV system located on the roof of the Santa Rita Jail is now the country's largest solar-electric installation.
Credit: PowerLight Corporation

In August 2002, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) presented Alameda County with a check for $1.6 million at the inauguration of its newly expanded solar electric photovoltaic (PV) system at the Santa Rita Jail. Located in Dublin, California, the PV system is rated at 1.18 megawatts (MW), which, according to PG&E, is enough to power 1,100 homes. The system consists of 9,726 solar panels that sit on the roof of the jail, enough to supply 30% of the jail's daytime needs for electricity.

The check from PG&E was part of the California Energy Commission's buydown program for renewable energy.

This PV system earned the maximum credit under the program and represents one of the largest such rebates in the state's history. The system will displace more than three million pounds of emissions, including NOx, SOx and CO2.

The rebate was key to making the economics work, according to Alameda County Energy Program Manager Matt Muniz. Alameda County expects to save $15 million over the 25-year life of the PV system. Said Muniz, "With solar electric generation, we are able to reduce our overall energy cost, and in particular, reduce our purchases of expensive, peak energy from our local utility." In addition to the solar system, Muniz noted that the jail undertook an extensive energy efficiency upgrade through an energy service performance contract. For more information, see the Alameda County press release.