Solar panels will give Alga Norte free energy by 2026

Solar panels will give Alga Norte free energy by 2026
Solar panels are being installed at Alga Norte Community Park to provide energy for the park. They’re expected to last 30 years and pay for themselves by 2026. Photo by Ellen Wright

CARLSBAD—Alga Norte Community Park is the city’s newest and most environmentally friendly park.

It will be even more efficient at the end of the year thanks to the installation of 720 solar energy panels.

The panels are being installed in two rows on the north end of the parking lot and are expected to provide energy by Dec. 31.

They serve two purposes, energy production and shade. Officials estimate the panel installation will cost $975,000 but the city will pay $720,000 thanks to a state rebate of about $254,000.

The panels will save taxpayers $66,000 annually in energy costs, according to Communications Manager Kristina Ray.

Analysts expect the project to have paid for itself by 2026. After that, the park will receive energy at no additional cost.

“We evaluated the initial cost investment versus reducing our energy costs,” said city of Carlsbad Civic Projects Manager Patrick McGarry. “With the increased electrical rates, increased production of the solar cells and lower solar cell costs, we are seeing a very healthy return on our investment.”

Along with saving taxpayers money, the panels reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Over 25 years, carbon dioxide emissions will be cut by more than 6,800 tons.

The panels have a 25-year warranty but are expected to last 30 years, according to Ray.

The panels are being installed by a Vista company, Independent Energy Solutions.

The park already uses solar thermal heating panels for the pool. The panels are on park rooftops and shade structures.

They use the sun’s energy to preheat the pool water before it goes into natural-gas-powered heaters.

“Before we decided to install solar panels we looked at every facet of the park’s design and reduced our overall energy demand by 30 percent,” said McGarry.

“The new solar system will mean that the park will generate nearly all of its own electricity, which is a big savings for taxpayers.

High efficiency lighting throughout the park saves $54,000 a year in energy costs.

Energy efficient LED fixtures used in the pool, parking lot, building exteriors and walkways save taxpayers $14,000 a year in energy costs.

The lighting in the sports field and the aquatic center save $40,000 annually.

Another cost-saver is an energy meter used specifically for outdoor lights. Since San Diego Gas & Electric charges a lower rate on outdoor lighting, the meter cuts down on costs.

SDG&E  offers the discount because the lights are turned on during periods of low energy demand.

All of the energy efficient infrastructure won the park the 2014 “Project of the Year” award from the San Diego/Imperial chapter of American Public Works Association.

This December will mark the park’s first year of being operational.

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