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California's Solar Powered Prisons Help Reduce Energy Costs

By Joao Peixe | Sun, 23 December 2012 00:00 | 2

The US has the largest prison population in the world by quite a long way; the 2,193,798 convicts that inhabit the near 2,000 prisons across the US, cost taxpayers around $40 billion a year.

All states in the US exceed their corrections budget each year, so reducing these costs is an important objective for many state governments.

Unfortunately it is not too simple to cut costs in prisons. You can’t really reduce the number of guards or make cut backs on building design or operation because that could reduce the security of the facility.

Energy is one place where savings can be made without effecting the operation of the prison; and it seems as though California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) may have created a workable model for cutting energy costs which can be applied to other prisons all over the country. A multi institution solar power purchase agreement.

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The ‘CDCR Goes Green’ program works in partnership with SunEdison, and since 2006 has installed solar plants at five state prisons.

The solar arrays at the California Correctional Institution, Chuckawalla Valley State Prison, Ironwood State Prison, North Kern State Prison, and Los Angeles County were installed by SunEdison, who also owns and maintains the panels. The CDCR then just buys the power produced off SunEdison at a pre-set rate in a long term contract. This arrangement means that the state doesn’t need to invest large amounts of money upfront to build the solar farms, and actually enables it to save an estimated $45-57 million at the five facilities over the 20 year contract.

By. Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com

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  • sasoros on January 04 2013 said:
    Prisoners have it too good anyway. if they won't study, they should be sent out into the fields in chaingangs, and do something to pay back their $20000/yr per head cost. That'll also save daytime lighting, without needing subsidies.
  • Tommy from Chicago on December 24 2012 said:
    The problem with this report and others like it is that they fail to mention that the solar panels and other "Green Energy" programs are SUBSIDIZED.

    A subsidy means that the state is using tax payer money to artificially lower the cost. So for example, if a single solar panel cost $600, the state uses $400 of tax payer money to subsidize (pay down) that cost and now claims that it only now costs just $200. That is NOT saving anyone money, it's a bait and switch. Since the state also runs off of tax payer money as well, taxpayers are still paying the full $600 amount!!

    At the moment, there is not a single "Green Energy" program that will save money without tax subsidies. Every single program will lose money, ALL OF THEM. When the cost of oil gets over $200 a barrel, then and only then would green energy technologies be cost efficient.

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