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City of Salinas Energy Conservation Efforts

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In 2013, the City of Salinas set out to reduce City gas, water and electric consumption and greenhouse gas emissions through upgrades to its aging infrastructure. City leaders also wanted to ensure a long-term plan for future operational savings through preventative maintenance that would preserve equipment and save time for maintenance staff. Realizing this project was an opportunity to reduce cost, City leaders were also interested generating revenue through electric energy. In November 2013, the Salinas City Council approved a proposal for a City-wide energy-efficiency program, and in early 2014 city staff selected OpTerra Energy Services to complete program development, design and implementation.

“In addition to saving millions of dollars in energy and maintenance costs, this ambitious initiative will help to revitalize neighborhoods, build regional collaboration and reduce the City’s impact on the environment, all of which are critical to the long-term health and sustainability of our city and the Salinas Valley as a whole.”

City of Salinas Mayor, Joe Gunter

A Partnership

A comprehensive program included installation of solar arrays on six sites throughout Salinas. Solar arrays were installed atop parking lots and ground mounted on vacant city land to generate electricity to power dozens of City-owned facilities. The solar project on Hitchcock Road in Salinas is also powering a nearby pump run by the Monterey Regional Water Pollution Control Agency. Solar construction began in the summer of 2015 and was completed in 2016. The solar energy program produces revenue and energy for the City. It also promotes interaction between public agencies, expanding regional collaborations. The solar arrays together are projected to generate 94 million kWh of power over 25 years.

The first the project’s first step was to replace all city-owned streetlights. In 2014-2016 all streetlights were replaced with energy-efficient Light Emitting Diode (LED) fixtures. LED fixtures reduce energy consumption while producing brighter, whiter light that enhances neighborhood safety. PG&E provided a financial rebate of more than $500,000 to Salinas to support this upgrade. In addition, the project included several upgrades to publicly-owned facilities that reduced ongoing operation and maintenance costs, as well as energy usage. Capital improvements included much-needed electrical servicing and mechanical upgrades to the City’s Agricultural Washwater Treatment Facility and the modernization of heating, venting and cooling (HVAC) systems at the Municipal Airport, Steinbeck Public Library, and the City’s Permit Center. By improving air-conditioning and overall air quality, facilities provide improved comfort for patrons while reducing ongoing energy and maintenance costs.

The comprehensive program has not required the City invest to spend its general fund monies. Instead, the City leveraged on-going energy and maintenance savings and one-time energy conservation rebates to pay for new equipment. Within a short time after installation, the City realized significant savings from the project. In the first year, the City projects to save more than $1 million on its utility bill.

The Results

Over the next 25 years, this wide-ranging energy program is expected to save taxpayers more than $22 million in lower energy cost. In addition, Salinas’ residents are enjoying the comforts of improved infrastructure including safer streets, brighter and more energy-efficient lighting, improved ventilation and more accurate temperature controls at busy public spaces such as the Steinbeck Library and the municipal airport.

The program has helped Salinas’ save millions of dollars in energy bills; money that can be reinvested into boosting public services and strengthening the local economy. The City found a way to generate revenue with the power of solar energy, projecting 94 million kWh of solar generation over 25 years. The City has improved the quality of life in its neighborhoods; continued to build regional collaboration through providing solar energy for sister agencies; and reduced the City’s impact on the environment. Further, the City has shown leadership in developing an energy future that is sustainable.

Program Highlights

  • Projected to generate more than $22MM in net savings over the next 25 years
  • Installed more than 6,200 high-efficiency LED fixtures
  • Reduced CO2 emissions by 7.5 million tons, equivalent to removing over 1,432,000 cars from the road each year
  • Generates 94 million kWh solar power over 25 years
  • Creates 50 local jobs