Federal Mandates Promote Solar System Installations, Including at Alcatraz

solar powered prison

With the addition of new solar panels, Alcatraz will now be powered almost entirely by the sun.

President Obama’s Executive Order that Federal Agencies are required to make a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 includes National Parks.  Infamous Alcatraz prison located in San Francisco Bay also falls under this presidential mandate.  Thanks to the Federal government, big things are happening in the switch to solar power, many of which are in the planning stages.

A huge goal was set for Alcatraz.  An annual fuel bill totaling approximately $700,000 was to be reduced by installing a solar farm on “The Rock,” as the prison is often called.  Instead of depending upon the existing pair of diesel generators for electricity, all power is now expected to be provided by the completed solar farm.

It took two years to bring the plan into fruition.  Alcatraz now has its own microgrid and a 307kW photovoltaic solar installation.  What was formerly the main cellhouse building is now equipped with solar panels.  There is also a 2 megawatt per hour lead acid battery which functions to store the surplus electricity that’s produced.

The diesel generators are in place now only as a backup to provide electricity when the solar panels are not supplying enough.  Other than that exception, the whole of Alcatraz operates 100% on power generated by the sun.

The timing of the solar project on Alcatraz has been ideal, since it was built when solar panel prices were remarkably low and at the same time diesel prices increased.  The cost of producing electricity using Alcatraz’s new solar electric system is 4 cents per kilowatt hour cheaper than what the old diesel generating system cost.

The over 1 million visitors to Alcatraz annually will each learn more than interesting facts about the prison.  An education in renewable energy will now be a part of the Alcatraz experience.

solar power

The new solar projects will provide enough energy to power 1.5 million homes.

The U.S.A.s most notorious prison isn’t the only location to benefit from Federal mandates.  Washington, in recent weeks, put seven renewable energy projects on a fast track toward completion as a part of the We Can’t Wait initiative.  States to benefit from the projects include Wyoming, California, Nevada, and Arizona.  Between the various projects, it’s expected that enough renewable energy will be produced to provide 1.5 million homes with power.

The solar power projects from among the seven on the fast track include two in California which are expected to have review completed by December 2012.  In Riverside County there is a 150 megawatt Desert Harvest Solar Energy project.  There’s also a huge 750-megawatt project in Riverside County, called the 750 MW McCoy Solar Energy project.

The Quartzite Solar Energy project in Arizona will be built on 1,675 acres of land belonging to the Bureau of Land Management.  This solar project is expected to have 100 megawatt capacity.

Two more solar projects will be installed in Nevada.  The Silver State South solar power project on approximately 13,000 acres of public land will produce 350 megawatts of solar power.  And the Moapa Solar Energy Center will be located on 2,000 acres in the Moapa River Indian Reservation.

In addition to the above-mentioned projects, 16 million acres of Military Land which were previously designated for military training and testing will now be available for renewable energy development.

Not all solar projects are as dramatic as the Alcatraz switch to using solar power 100% of the time, but the big plans set in place by the federal government will give clean energy in the U.S.A. an impressive boost.

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