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Old Baldy, Canada | photo by Cameron Schaus

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   Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | monterey county

City of Santa Cruz adds to its renewable energy system


A 14-kilowatt system was placed atop the City Hall Annex in December 2001.
Photo provided by the City of Santa Cruz

With the completion this summer of a solar photovoltaic system at the city Corporation Yard, the city of Santa Cruz is now generating approximately 33% of the total electric power used by city facilities.

The solar installation at the Corporate Yard is 55-kilowatts. Although the total system cost $370,000 to install, the cost to the city was only $185,000 because of a rebate from the PG&E Self Generation Program. The city expects to save around $12,000 per year in electric power costs. The savings should pay for the system in 10 to 15 years, and the system is expected to last 25 years.

One of the huge generators which produce electricity from methane gas produced during wastewater treatment.
Photo provided by the City of Santa Cruz

The Corporation Yard array is the third photovoltaic system installed on city facilities. A 14-kilowatt system was placed atop the City Hall Annex in December 2001, and a 50-kilowatt system went on line at the Wastewater Treatment Facility in December 2002. Together, the three solar power systems are estimated to prevent 138 tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year that would have been generated by non-renewable power production.

In addition to the three solar power systems, the City of Santa Cruz has two other renewable energy facilities. Landfill gas from the city's Resource Recovery Facility powers a cogeneration facility that produces 5.4 megawatts of electricity each year. This system was installed in 1989. In 1991 a digester gas cogeneration system was installed at the Wastewater Treatment Facility. This system produces about 3.4 megawatts of electricity annually. Its break even point was less than five years. The city and county received a $396,000 rebate on this $1.7 million project.

By taking advantage of various grants and other programs designed to encourage renewable power sources, the city of Santa Cruz has achieved major savings in installation costs for these systems. The 2001 project on the City Hall Annex cost $133,400 but cost the city only $27,600 due to grants and rebates. The photovoltaic system at the Wastewater Treatment Plant cost $385,000 to install; cost to the city with rebates was $194,212.

The City of Santa Cruz is a member of the international group, Cities for Climate Protection, aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

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