In Focus: Solar Powered Prisons
Did you ever imagine prisons becoming solar-powered?
Personally, I know I had never really thought of such an idea before. It’s easier to think of solar power being implemented in places such as schools, homes, commercial buildings, parks, government buildings and military quarters. But prisons? Can someone say, “Awesome”?!
In late October 2011, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation announced their construction project involving installation of solar panels at four state prisons. These included the California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi, Chuckawalla Valley and Ironwood prison in Blythe, and the North State Prison in Delano.
The number of solar panels that are needed to complete these projects total over 83,000 and according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the project will provide 25 megawatts of solar power per year. In fact, they say the environmental benefit is like removing 90,000 carbon dioxide emitting cars off the road each year.
How does this benefit society?
Besides providing environmental positives, the project is expected to save taxpayers $57 million in energy costs over the life of the solar panels – over 20 years. Need I say more? More money in my pocket? I’ll take it!
Other projects that have either been completed or will take place include prisons located in Otero County north of El Paso’s city limits, Kerala, and Illinois, to name a few.
The solar panel project farm in El Paso cost $10 million to complete and includes more than 23,000 solar panels on 15.8 acres on the Otero County land. This particular project was completed last summer, producing enough power to supply roughly 600 homes. The power that is generated by the solar farm will be sold to the prisons and is expected to provide enough energy for daytime power usages.
Going green seems to be the new wave for prisons, especially after noting how much power and money can be conserved over the long run. These green initiations have been implemented all over the country and new projects will undoubtedly be promoted in other places in the future.
The two Illinois correctional facilities in Merced County, John Latrocca Correctional Facility and Garrett Juvenile Correctional Facility, are also running on solar power with two arrays totaling 6,272 solar panels. The capacity is said to be 1.4 megawatts and will cover roughly 70 percent of the facilities peak electricity consumption. In addition to receiving power from the panels just off the land, the facilities have also implemented other green actions by installing energy-efficient lighting systems. All of this is expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 999.85 tons and save the county $300,000 in energy costs each year.
Save money? Reduce carbon dioxide emissions? Those two reasons alone are enough to push solar powered projects into fruition at any facility, regardless of whether it’s a prison, school, home, hangar, parking lot, or park. The move toward alternative and renewable sources of energy have certainly given solar panels a strong name with a lot of support, even after having gone through some questionable myths in the past related to the fall of Solyndra.
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