San Luis Obispo County energizes first solar projects via ForeFront Power

Solar Parking CanopySan Luis Obispo, California, July 13th, 2020

The County of San Luis Obispo celebrated the completion of two solar projects at the Department of Parks and Recreation’s Dairy Creek Golf Course and the Department of Social Services. The first of many planned solar projects, these solar parking canopies total 552 KW representing a major sustainability milestone for the County.

Developed and financed by ForeFront Power, the two projects are designed to supply over 80 percent of site electricity needs. The County is looking forward to more than a million dollars of energy expense savings over the next 20 years.

The County will purchase the electricity generated by the solar systems at a competitive, predictable rate, thanks to an Energy Services Agreement (ESA) structure. This allows the purchase energy at a cheaper rate than its local utility without paying upfront costs for the system. With the savings generated, the County is able to shift funds from electricity to services for the community.

“We spend a significant amount of money on electricity across our facilities, parks, and water assets,” said San Luis Obispo County’s Energy and Water Coordinator Annie Secrest. “Now, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all public agencies will face budget challenges. It’s great timing for the County to save money on electricity so we can directly support the Department of Social Services and the Department of Parks and Recreation in their efforts to provide important services to the community.”

Beyond the planned energy savings, these projects will also contribute to the County’s Energy Wise Plan. The Energy Wise Plan is part of the General Plan’s Conservation and Open Space Element, a tool to protect and preserve community resources, while improving the health and welfare of the community. Prior to installing solar, the County completed other energy efficiency projects at the sites as part of this plan. These two solar projects add to this progress and will generate over 850,000 KW-hours of renewable energy per year – replacing an additional 625 metric tons of CO2 emissions, equivalent to removing 135 passenger vehicles from the road each year.

Working with ForeFront Power helped the County achieve a number of financial and environmental benefits. The County selected ForeFront Power through the School Project for Utility Rate Reduction’s (SPURR) Renewable Energy Aggregated Procurement Program (REAP). REAP allows any California public agency to obtain the best solar and energy storage pricing and terms from a competitive statewide solicitation. Over 35 California public agencies have used REAP to develop hundreds of MW of solar and storage projects to date.

“I was looking for a way that the County could execute projects with a very experienced vendor in this field. We did not have the resources to do this all ourselves,” said Secrest. “The ForeFront Power team
was educational and knowledgeable – providing so many resources to make this process successful and run smoothly. It gave us the confidence to move forward with another project.”

In addition to these two solar carport canopy projects, ForeFront Power is building a 1.2-MW ground-mounted solar project at the County Operations Center, which includes critical facilities such as the County jail. This project should generate enough electricity to avoid an additional 1,751 metric tons of CO2 – the equivalent of removing 378 passenger vehicles from the road each year. The project is expected to start delivering energy to the County in late 2020.

— Solar Builder magazine


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