A $3.5 million contract was awarded Tuesday for a solar project that officials estimate will cut electrical bills by more than 40 percent at Todd Road Jail.
Panels with 4,260 solar cells will be mounted on posts on 4 acres of vacant agricultural land behind the jail on Todd Road, between Ventura and Santa Paula.
County officials expect they will reduce the jail's annual electricity bill of $460,000 by more than 40 percent. They said the project made sense because jails are big users of electricity and the Todd Road facility had space on its grounds for the installation.
"We never shut down," said Cmdr. Linda Oksner, who oversees the jail that houses 750 to 800 inmates. "Our electricity use is always going."
The project also will help county government meet the Board of Supervisors' goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, said Paul Grossgold, director of the General Services Agency.
The board unanimously approved the contract for design and construction Tuesday. The total cost of the project, including preliminary engineering and project management, is estimated at $4.6 million.
REC Solar of San Luis Obispo won the contract from a field of five applicants who qualified to submit proposals. Construction is expected to start next month and end in July, said Phil Nelson, county engineering services director.
The project will be paid for with $3.2 million in financing, which the county will raise by selling tax-exempt commercial paper to investors. The debt is to be repaid over 15 years.
Chief Financial Officer Paul Derse said an additional $1.2 million will come from excess profits of the county General Services Agency. He said that figure will be reduced to $200,000 with credits that Southern California Edison will provide for the project over five years.
The remaining $229,000 was spent in past years for preliminary work on the project.
The installation has a life expectancy of 30 years. It will take 20 years for the cost of the project to be covered by bill savings, Nelson said.
Oksner said the Sheriff's Office fully supported the project.
"We're hopeful we will be able to be more efficient both environmentally and also economically if we can reduce our cost by 40 percent," she said.
Lemon trees on the property were cut down to accommodate the project. Grossgold said there was no controversy about removing the trees.
Supervisor Kathy Long said constituents in Santa Paula were concerned about whether the solar panels would interfere with flight operations at Santa Paula Airport. Long doubted that was the case, but Nelson said he would check into the question.
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