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Solar panels at the San Luis Rey Water Reclamation Facility save the city over $82,000 annually. More solar panels will be installed around the city and save an addition $75,000 a year. Photo by Promise Yee
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Solar panels adding up to big savings for Oceanside

OCEANSIDE — Solar panels will be added to five city sites, and rack up $8 million in savings over 25 years.

City Council approved a power purchase agreement with PFMG Solar LLC, of Huntington Beach, in early August. Solar panels will be installed at police headquarters, Fire Station 7, the city operations center, Melba Bishop Recreation Center and EL Corazon Senior Center.

The locations were selected for phase I of a solar energy project that the city hopes to expand.

“It’s something new for us,” John McKelvey, management analyst for Oceanside Water Utilities Department and project manager, said. “If we can prove it can be done, there are a lot more possibilities.”

Large parking lot shade structures will be built at the five sites to hold the solar equipment on top. The police station will also have solar panels on the building’s roof.

Shaded parking for city vehicles and the public is an extra bonus.

“The facilities will benefit right away,” McKelvey said.

Equipment will be installed and maintained by PFMG Solar, and sized to meet the needs of each site. Any extra solar energy will go back on the grid.

“The only thing we’re responsible for is buying the energy,” McKelvey said. “The size of the system won’t generate anything beyond use.”

The solar project provides a stable local energy source that is not subject to SDG&E expected rate increases.

A modest projection of city energy savings is $75,000 a year.

The project also reduces the city’s greenhouse gas impact, gives Oceanside state renewable energy credits and creates jobs.

The city has the option to purchase the solar equipment at the end of the 25-year agreement, or have it removed. A decision has not been made, but it’s known the equipment degrades and produces fewer solar kilowatt-hours with each passing year.

McKelvey said the equipment will be fully appreciated at the end of 25 years.

Oceanside approved an agreement and installation of a one-megawatt solar field at the San Luis Rey Water Reclamation Facility five years ago, which has generated electricity for the past three years. The solar energy system produces 25 percent of the plant’s power usage, and saves the city more than $82,000 annually.

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