The Coast News Group
Vista Civic Center. File photo
Vista Civic Center. File photo
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Vista to install solar panels at Civic Center, Fire Station No. 3

VISTA — The City Council approved a robust solar project on the grounds of the Vista Civic Center during its Aug. 22 meeting.

The council approved a bid from Baker Electric to install solar panels in the parking lot along Civic Center Drive. The panels would also be used as carports to keep parking available for staff and the public.

Any leftover funds will be used to install solar panels at Fire Station No. 3, which is currently being rebuilt at East Vista Way and Taylor Street.

According to City Manager John Conley, the city received a $3.5 million grant from the California Energy Commission to facilitate the project. 

As for the total cost of the project and energy capacity, Conley said those numbers will be finalized in about three months when Baker Electric returns to the council with final design plans. However, based on conceptual designs, Baker Electric and the city are estimating savings of at least $11 million over the next several years, according to Greg Mayer, the city’s acting engineering director.

“The first phase is a design phase and that will determine the number of panels and the amount of power we’ll get,” Conley said. “(After that) we’ll have a lot more detail.”

Mayer said the city expects a five-year payback period with the installation of the panels based on preliminary estimates. Another challenge was whether to construct the carport or install the panels on the roof of the Civic Center.

The city opted for the carport design to maximize energy capacity as the roof, due to the pitch and other factors, would not be suitable to generate as much energy as possible. The project is expected to be completed in fall 2024.

“It’ll probably be a little less than a year,” Mayer said. “We’re trying to do 100% on the ground carports. We’d rather not use the roof because it’s kind of a funny shape and complicated to put stuff on the roof.”

Conley said the project also helps with the city’s Climate Action Plan goals for clean energy. Also, he said the city has been looking at a solar project at the Civic Center for about three years.

Mayor John Franklin said SANDAG conducted two audits on the city’s emissions and energy efficiency. After their review, SANDAG could not find any additional efficiencies to add, although the solar project is one of them.

Councilwoman Corinna Contreras said this project is a “big priority,” and there’s a lot to be done to decarbonize the city’s buildings.

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