The City of Carlsbad has begun to install a solar photovoltaic energy system that will generate most of Alga Norte Community Park’s electricity needs and save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in energy costs.
The city has hired Independent Energy Solutions of Vista to install 720 solar photovoltaic modules that will cover two rows of Alga Norte’s parking lot. The panels will be mounted in the lot, so they will serve a dual purpose of supplying energy while shading park patrons.
The system is expected to generate about 360,000 kilowatts of energy a year, which will save Carlsbad taxpayers about $66,000 annually in energy costs. The solar project is expected to cost $975,000 to install, and the city will receive a state of California rebate $254,467, reducing the city’s project cost to about $720,000.
In calculating the project cost and the future increases in energy costs, analysts estimate that the solar project will have paid for itself after 11 years and will begin delivering energy to the park at no additional cost in its 12th year of operation. The solar panels have a warranty period of 25 years and an estimated lifespan of 30 years, so the city stands to reap free electricity worth hundreds of thousands of dollars from the system for many years.
“We evaluated the initial cost investment versus reducing our energy costs,” said City of Carlsbad Civic Projects Manager Patrick McGarry. “With the increased electrical rates, increased production of the solar cells and lower solar cell costs, we are seeing a very healthy return on our investment.”
The solar project will reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by cutting carbon dioxide output by approximately 6,838 tons over a 25-year period, which is the equivalent of automobiles driving 15 million miles.
The city also installed extensive energy-saving measures during the park’s development to reduce its electricity demand, reduce greenhouse gases and lower the park’s bill.
A big energy consumer is Alga Norte’s Aquatic Center, which includes a 56-meter Olympic-sized competition pool, a 25-yard, 12-lane instructional pool, a 10-by-25-foot warm water spa for adults and a “splash pad” play area for children.
The city installed solar thermal heating panels on park rooftops and shade structures to tap the sun’s energy to preheat the water before it goes into the natural-gas-powered heaters. The combination of solar and natural gas significantly reduces the aquatic center’s energy demand and keeps the pool water at a comfortable temperature year round. The panels also provide shade for spectators sitting in the grandstands.
“Before we decided to install solar panels we looked at every facet of the park’s design and reduced our overall energy demand by 30 percent,” said McGarry. “The new solar system will mean that the park will generate nearly all of its own electricity, which is a big savings for taxpayers.”
Alga Norte Community Park was designed and constructed as the City of Carlsbad’s “greenest” park, winning recognition as a 2014 Project of the Year by the San Diego/Imperial Chapter of American Public Works Association. Its environmentally friendly features include:
Tubular solar lights that collect and concentrate sunlight to illuminate building interiors, reducing the need for electrical lights during daytime.
Energy-saving LED fixtures that light the pool, parking lot, building exteriors and walkways, saving about $14,000 a year in energy costs.
High-efficiency lighting that illuminates the sports fields and aquatic center, saving about $40,000 a year in energy costs.
A solar thermal heating system that preheats pool water before it enters heaters, saving about $18,000 annually in energy costs.
Overall intelligent design, including high-efficiency heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems, cutting electricity demand.
To read more about Alga Norte Park’s green features, click here.
The city also saved on energy costs by connecting outdoor lighting to a separate meter from the rest of the park. San Diego Gas & Electric charges a lower rate on outdoor lighting because the lights are turned on during periods of low demand for energy use.
The 32-acre park, located at Poinsettia Lane and Alicante Road, just east of El Camino Real, opened in December. The complex fills a large recreational need for Carlsbad’s growing population. The park’s many features include:
A 56-meter Olympic-sized competition pool with viewing bleachers.
A 25-yard, 12-lane swim instructional pool.
A 10-by-25-foot warm water therapy spa for adults.
A “splash pad” play area for children.
Three lighted multipurpose ball fields with a concession stand.
One lighted full basketball court and one half court.
A lighted skate park for beginner and experienced skateboarders.
An off-leash dog park divided into areas for larger and smaller dogs, including obstacle course-type play equipment.
Shaded playground with 100 percent universally accessible play equipment.
Shaded picnic areas with barbeques.
Installation of the solar panels is expected to be completed by the end of November. They’ll begin providing electricity to the park by Dec. 31.