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Plan To Install Solar Panels At 25 City-Owned Properties Gets Go Ahead

Solar energy canopies in the parking lot of the San Diego Zoo charge cars and feed an innovative new power station.
Monaliza Noor
Solar energy canopies in the parking lot of the San Diego Zoo charge cars and feed an innovative new power station.

A plan to install solar power panels at 25 city-owned properties over the next 20 years was given unanimous initial approval Tuesday by the San Diego City Council.

The sites will be used for nine rooftop solar systems and 19 parking lot canopy arrays.

Among the locations are seven police stations, four libraries, the City Administration Building and surrounding structures, and the parking lots at the Mission Trails Regional Park Visitors Center and Inspiration Point in Balboa Park.

Under terms of the proposed deal — a second reading by the City Council is required to finalize it — SunEdison Government Solutions LLC will install, operate, own and maintain the solar photovoltaic systems over two decades.

The city will buy the power supplied by the systems from SunEdison, replacing electricity that otherwise would have been purchased from San Diego Gas & Electric, which supports the plan.

City officials estimated the cost of purchasing power for the 25 facilities from SDG&E over the next 20 years will be $48 million, compared to a $26 million price tag for solar from SunEdison.

The total savings will be $22 million, ranging from a projected $500,000 in the first year of operation to more than $1.7 million annually by the end of the term, according to the staff report.

"This is really a watershed moment for the city in terms of harnessing something that our region is fortunate to possess in abundance, which is sunshine, and really using it to benefit taxpayers as well as meet the goals of our climate action plan," Councilman Mark Kersey said.

The savings projections are "conservative," with costs of traditional energy sources expected to climb in the future, Kersey said.

Mario Sierra, director of the city's Environmental Services Department, said construction could begin around March or April next year and be completed by August.

The project could become more ambitious in the future. Sierra said 40 other municipal properties were identified as good candidates for solar systems, and they could be brought before the committee in about four months.

Other city facilities that undergo renovations in the future will be designed for both solar energy and electric vehicle charging stations, he said.

The plan was given its initial go-ahead last month by the council's Infrastructure Committee.