By Beth Buczynski.

Officials in Merced County, California, recently celebrated the launch of a 1.4 megawatt solar complex that will generate enough electricity to power two full-size correctional facilities.

Two arrays consisting of 6,272”>solar panels were installed on 4.5 acres of land near the John Latorraca Correctional Facility and the Iris Garrett Juvenile Justice Correctional Complex. Designed by Siemens, the installation is expected to provide approximately 70 percent of the facilities’ peak electricity consumption.

“We are thrilled to be turning on a new era of sustainability for Merced County citizens. I think all will agree we have made a solid investment that will yield tremendous fiscal and environmental benefits to the county and its citizens for decades to come,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman John Pedrozo. “The economics of the system could not be better. We can expect more than $300,000 in equivalent electricity savings every year and a net positive cash flow that over 25 years will reach, according to projections, nearly $9 million.”

The County Board has also instituted a policy to have money saved by the solar project deposited in a fund for other countywide capital improvements.

According to Siemens’ Greenhouse Gas Calculator, the solar PV system and the energy-efficient lighting upgrades will reduce CO2 emissions in Illinois by approximately 999.85 tons.

The Merced County facilities join a growing list of California prisons that are turning to renewable energy to save money. In late October, it was announced that solar panels will be installed at four different California correctional facilities. Totaling to 83,000 panels, the arrays will generate  25 megawatts of power across the state, and save taxpayers around $57 million over 20 years.

Correction: While the Siemens plant that designed and built the solar array is located in Buffalo Grove, Ill., the array was in fact installed at correctional facilities in Merced County, California–not Illinois as was originally indicated. Our apologies for any confusion this may have caused.

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