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Municipal Governments Turn to Solar Power
Walnut Creek, California offers an example of solar's potential in public-sector applications. The city recently conducted a feasibility study to determine how viable solar installations would be at a number of publicly owned sites - and, the Contra Costa Times reported March 16, Walnut Creek's city hall was found to be a prime candidate for solar power.
The city hall is one of the biggest energy consumers in Walnut Creek, surveyors learned - so by going solar, the city can slash its energy spending significantly. Officials estimate that a solar array at the city hall building would save more than $625,000 in energy over the next 25 years.
Bob Simmons, Walnut Creek's mayor pro tem, told the Times that saving money isn't the only reason the city should go solar: Substantial carbon-emissions reduction would also result. Installing solar arrays at the six sites deemed viable would shrink Walnut Creek's carbon footprint by nearly a fifth.
"An 18 percent reduction in our greenhouse gas emissions just for the city is a pretty significant factor for us to consider," Simmons was quoted as saying.
Officials in Texas are also bullish on solar power's potential. The Nueces County Courthouse in the city of Corpus Christi is in the process of installing solar panels on its roof, the Caller-Times newspaper reported March 16.
And Nueces County's jail is putting a solar-thermal system in place to provide hot water to its inmates. In total, nearly 200 solar panels will be installed on the courthouse and the jail.
Loyd Neal, a county judge, said the two systems should save more than half a million dollars every year.
"This is another step forward for the county," the Caller-Times quoted Neal as saying.
Solar power is attracting attention from coast to coast - in fact, the Solar Energy Industries Association estimates that the nation's solar market doubled in value last year. As the projects in California and Texas demonstrate, solar has numerous benefits for local governments - and more cities, towns and counties may follow Walnut Creek and Nueces County's lead.
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