Solar-Powered Prisons To Save California $300k A Year

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.

Related Reading:

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Top 10 Countries Using Solar Power [Infographic]

In Wisconsin, Prison Labor Replaces Unions

Image Credit: Flickr – Muffet


Jason Shepard
Past Member 6 years ago

@Christina B.: The general reason that they aren't more commonplace is the original "cost of entry", more commonly known as "up-front costs". The price to "buy in" to solar is rather high up front, however, taken over the long-term, the environmental and fiscal benefits are rather large making the investment worthwhile. For most homeowners, especially during these economic times, an up-front cost of $40,000 or more can be staggering - and financially impossible. The same can be said of small business owners.

There are advancements being made, however, that will make solar more affordable "for the masses". Companies are being started that are "renting" the solar equipment in certain areas of the country. Others are being started that are allowing many people, such as an entire community, to invest together to get "bulk purchase" prices rather than full retail. Programs such as these will continue to pop up and will continue to make solar more and more affordable and combat the huge initial investment currently required.

Christina B.
Christina B6 years ago

Since everybody agrees that solar panels are "moneysavers" and of "tremendous fiscal and environmental benefits", how come aren't more of them being used?

K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Wileen C.
W. C6 years ago

Smart, very smart idea.

Carol P.
Carol P6 years ago

Not sure how to comment on an post with such major errors. Where is this actually taking place? Illinois or California?

Warren Osborn
Warren Osborn6 years ago

We need to do something different

Jason Shepard
Past Member 6 years ago

@Caroline B.: I assumed this was a misspelling of Mercer County, Illinois. In any event, I agree with Jane H. in that it's great no matter where it's located. Illinois really needs to pull its head out of its collective arse and do things like this, though, if it's not Mercer County. (I'm a bit too lazy today to do the

Jose Ramon Fisher Rodrigu

Good that solar energy is being used, not so good that a prison is what it's powering. But why is the "saving money" what's being emphasized?

Jane H.
Jane H6 years ago

the more solar the better no matter whether in Illinois or California or Kentucky!!

caroline b.
caroline b.6 years ago

This isn't in Illinois, it's in California. Merced County's in California and so are the jails named in the article. This seems like a pretty bad mistake, I don't know how they got Illinois in there.