The Coast News Group

Carlsbad flips switch on new solar system

CARLSBAD — Carlsbad has flipped the switch on a new solar photovoltaic system at its Safety Training Center, according to a press release from the city.

The system will generate enough electricity to fill nearly all the energy needs of the compound that serves as a training ground for police, fire and other first responders.

The 352-rooftop solar panels are capable of generating 195,000 kilowatts per year, saving taxpayers a projected $1.2 million over their 30-year lifespan.

“We’re hoping to offset all the Safety Training Center’s energy usage,” said Jason Kennedy, who manages the center on Orion Street.

He said the city is installing other conservation measures, such as energy-saving LED fixtures and more efficient belts in the heating and ventilation units, to reduce the Safety Training Center’s energy bill even more.

“There’s always room for energy conservation,” Kennedy said.

The project is part of the city’s multi-pronged energy conservation strategy to reduce consumption, develop renewable energy sources, cuts costs and lower greenhouse gas emissions. The project is an example of the types of initiatives the city will continue to pursue under its recently adopted Climate Action Plan, which was developed to help meet state goals for reducing greenhouse gases and promoting a sustainable environment.

“This solar project makes the city more energy self-reliant, which helps us meet a community goal of environmental sustainability,” said Public Works Director Pat Thomas.

The Safety Training Center project will cost $327,000 after a $98,000 rebate from the state, and is expected to pay for itself after 10 years. The solar panels have a 25-year warranty and an anticipated lifespan of 30 years.

The Safety Training Center opened in 2012 and is used by emergency responders from Carlsbad and other public agencies. Its 50,000-square-foot rooftop stretches nearly the length of a football field, making it a perfect location for solar panels. When the city built the center, it installed plumbing and electrical fixtures to accommodate a solar photovoltaic system, should one become affordable. The investment paid off when the price of solar panels dropped, making the system cost-effective.

The solar generating system adds to the city’s growing portfolio of renewable energy projects. In February 2015, the city installed 720 solar photovoltaic panels in the parking lot at Alga Norte Community Park, generating enough electricity to meet nearly all the park’s energy needs.

The city has been reducing its energy demand and electricity bill by replacing old energy-hogging systems with newer, more efficient means. Five years ago, it replaced its high-pressure sodium streetlights with energy-saving induction lamps, which use 60 percent less power than the older ones, saving city taxpayers an estimated $300,000 per year in energy and maintenance costs.