News Releases

CDCR, SunEdison Begin Construction of Solar Power Plants at Four Prisons

Projects will offset nearly 1 billion pounds of carbon dioxide over 20 years

SACRAMENTO — The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) today announced that construction has begun on four solar power plants on prison grounds.

SunEdison construction crews have begun installing solar power panels at Chuckawalla Valley State Prison and Ironwood State Prison in Blythe, North Kern State Prison in Delano, and California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi. All four projects are expected to be completed and generating clean solar power by late December. A fifth site, at California State Prison, Los Angeles County is scheduled to be completed next summer, along with a second phase construction project at Tehachapi.

“This expansion of CDCR’s renewable energy portfolio reduces our reliance on the utility companies and demonstrates the department’s ongoing commitment in meeting Governor Brown’s renewable energy goals,” said CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate.

The new projects will add more than 83,000 solar panels on the grounds of the prisons —providing 25 megawatts of clean solar energy annually. The projects are anticipated to save taxpayers more than $57 million over the 20-year life of the contracts. Additionally, the environmental attributes of the systems will offset nearly 1 billion pounds of carbon dioxide. That is the equivalent of taking nearly 90,000 vehicles off the road for a year.

Construction and maintenance will be arranged and paid for by SunEdison, using no state General Fund tax dollars. The costs of the projects are further reduced by incentive dollars from California Investor Owned Utilities, through the California Solar Initiative Program administered by the California Public Utilities Commission.

“With our agreement, we are able to lock in a low electricity rate for the next 20 years and avoid paying utility demand charges during peak demand hours in the summer,” said Chris Meyer, Director of CDCR’s Facility Planning, Construction and Management Division. “These projects not only help the state save money during these lean economic times but will help stimulate the economy with new construction.”

Chuckawalla Valley State Prison and Ironwood State Prison near Blythe were the first CDCR facilities to receive solar photovoltaic systems, with each currently operating a 1-megawatt array with a total of approximately 6,400 solar panels. The systems were constructed in 2006 and 2008 respectively and, when brought on line, were the largest solar installations at any prison system in the United States, providing nearly 25 percent of the prisons’ total electrical demand.

The new projects under construction at North Kern, Ironwood, Chuckawalla and the first phase at California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi are expected to be operational by December 31, 2011, and will total more than 56,000 solar panels on the grounds of the prisons, providing 15.5 megawatts of clean solar energy. The phase II expansion at California Correctional Institution and a new plant at California State Prison, Los Angeles County in Lancaster are scheduled to be operational in 2012, providing an additional 26,000 solar panels and 7.5 megawatts of renewable energy.

These projects are managed by CDCR’s Energy, Sustainability and Infrastructure Section, part of the Facility Planning, Construction and Management Division.

Link to photographs:

CDCR Solar Power:


October 20, 2011
CONTACT: Paul Verke
(916) 445-4950