The North County Fire Protection District (NCFPD or District) has powered up five separate fire stations and one maintenance facility in northern San Diego County to run entirely on solar electricity, with the six facilities now supplying more clean energy to the power grid than they consume.
NCFPD’s Fire Station 5 in Bonsall is the latest to convert to solar, with a 47.5-kilowatt (kW) solar system completed this month. All six solar projects were installed by local turnkey provider, Sullivan Solar Power, which won the jobs in two separate competitive bidding processes using Kyocera Solar panels and SMA America inverters.
The NCFPD serves approximately 50,000 residents in the communities of Fallbrook, Bonsall and Rainbow. The District, which is funded by local taxpayers and benefited from a low interest loan through the California Energy Commission’s Energy Conservation Assistance Act to fund the solar projects, has been cash-flow positive on the six solar projects since the first month of each project, and has combined projected energy savings of more than $65,000 annually.
“Our electricity bills were one of our largest expenditures, and solar was the ideal solution,” said Greg Wilson, Battalion Chief for the NCFPD. “Our first five solar installations have exceeded performance guarantees in their first year and the savings from all six systems help stabilize our electricity rates.”Fire season is in full swing, Wilson noted, and the savings from solar now allow the District to focus on emergency preparedness with an appropriate level of staffing and services.
“We are thrilled to help the District become energy independent and believe other fire stations can take inspiration from this model as they seek ways to reduce operating costs while continuing to provide an invaluable service to the community,” said Daniel Sullivan, founder and president, Sullivan Solar Power. “To further reduce fossil fuel consumption and to support our local economy, Sullivan Solar Power again used Kyocera solar modules for the latest project after performance outpaced projections at the five installations of the first phase.”
The new Bonsall Station solar power system includes 200 locally-manufactured Kyocera Solar panels and eight SMA inverters. The system consists of a roof-mounted solar array and two carports. The system’s monitoring shows solar generation as high as 350kWh per day so far this month.
The District is utilizing the net metering-aggregation tariff with San Diego Gas & Electric, where solar on one property can offset other electrical meters on adjoining properties. As a result, Fire Station 1’s 76.3kW solar system generates enough electricity to offset the energy used at Fire Station 1 and at an adjacent communications tower, meeting room, ballpark and well pump.
“The NCFPD is a great example of solar’s ability to immediately impact the bottom line, freeing up much needed public funds to better serve the community,” said Cecilia Aguillon, Kyocera International, Inc. Solar Energy Group’s director of market development. “It’s gratifying to see the benefits of our system helping improve the fire district’s budget as well as its performance leading to an expansion.”