Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve officials have found a way to obtain cheap electricity and provide shade for the recreational vehicles stored at the Santee park near San Diego, Calif.
A solar-power system was built atop shade covers that were installed at the park’s 300-space RV storage parking lot late last year. The Padre Dam Municipal Water District, which operates the park, has a 20-year agreement with the company running the solar-power system to buy electricity at a cheaper rate than San Diego Gas & Electric Co. offers, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.
“It provides insurance against rising rates and helps reduce the cost of energy,” said Tom Philp, senior energy consultant for Borrego Solar Systems of El Cajon.
Borrego Solar Systems partnered with SunEdison, a solar energy services provider based in Maryland, to build the $7 million project. SunEdison provided the financing and will maintain the system and sell the energy it produces to the park.
Officials with Padre Dam and the two private companies held a celebration of the new system this week, although it has been operating since mid-December.
The solar panels cover more than 200,000 square feet above the three storage lots. They are expected to provide 1.4 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually, enough to power about 2,500 homes for a year.
Park manager Allen Carlisle said the electricity from the solar panels will provide about half of the park’s energy needs. He estimates the park will save about $600,000 over the next 20 years in electricity costs.
The park increased its RV storage fee by $35 a month because the spaces are now covered. Carlisle said the park will receive an additional $50,000 a year from the higher rental fees.
The solar project has been in the works for more than two years. Carlisle said he initially considered having solar panels installed on the ground, but they would have taken up more than four acres of open space.
Instead, when a new RV lot was being built, Carlisle worked out a deal to have it covered along with two existing lots that had been used for RV storage for about 15 years.
Kirk Roller, vice president of SunEdison, said sunny San Diego County is an ideal location for solar energy. The panels are producing more energy than the company had initially expected, he said.