Madera County government buildings to be solar powered

The Fresno BeeDecember 5, 2013 

Much of the solar growth in the San Joaquin Valley has taken place since 2012.

FRESNO BEE STAFF — The Fresno Bee

A new $10 million solar project in Madera County approved earlier this week will power half of the county government's facilities.

The savings are estimated at $13.9 million over 30 years, said Eric Fleming, the county's chief administrative officer.

"This is the biggest energy savings project to date for Madera County," Fleming said. "This project should also showcase Madera County as a leader in energy efficiency and renewable technology while bringing substantial environmental benefits, equivalent to removing 472 cars a year off the highway."

Supervisors passed the project proposal with a 5-0 vote at their Tuesday meeting. Installation will be done by Chevron Energy Solutions, which is guaranteeing 90% of the projected energy cost savings, Fleming said.

Construction will likely start in April and should be completed by December 2014.

The project will have three components, Fleming said:

-- A major feature is a 1.4-megawatt solar farm, to be built on 11 acres across from Madera County Jail. The solar panels should provide all electricity needed for a 40-acre complex that includes the jail, juvenile hall, sheriff and probation offices.

-- A smaller solar project will be installed on top of the government center parking garage, which will double as a shade structure for cars. This project should power 25% of the 132,000-square-foot center.

-- A third component is a complete replacement of the central power plant that runs the county's main library in Madera. The plant will be funded from some savings generated by the other solar projects. The new plant should reduce utility bills by 30% to 40%.

The idea for the solar program came several years ago, when supervisors said they were interested in starting an energy-savings project to reduce operating costs, Fleming said.

In an ensuing bidding process, the county received several proposals from energy companies before deciding on Chevron.

Ultimately, the project will be fully funded from its generated energy savings, Fleming said.

To enable construction, supervisors also entered into a lease agreement with Western Alliance Bank Investments Inc., which will provide cash for construction, not to exceed $10.7 million. Madera County is also getting a $1.4 million boost from PG&E to support solar.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6386, cgeorge@fresnobee.com or @CarmenGeorge on Twitter.

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