California’s sprawling Santa Rita Jail uses more power than 2,000 average homes. But the jail generates most of that power on-site with solar panels, wind turbines, and a natural gas fuel cell plant. The facility even has its own microgrid, which can operate independently of the main power grid.

A jail might seem an unlikely place for this cutting-edge technology, but David Hochschild, Commissioner of the California Energy Commission, says the switch to clean power made economic sense.

HOCHSCHILD: “When you do these things, you’re not only reducing pollution, you’re also saving taxpayer money.”

A large jail's switch to clean power ‘made economic sense.' Click To Tweet

In this case, about $100,000 a year. The jail’s microgrid provides security, too, since it will continue providing power during a widespread blackout. This makes the jail more resilient to extreme weather. So Hochschild expects the technology to catch on more widely as other energy commissions grapple with the impacts of our changing climate.

HOCHSCHILD: “The things that you need to do to address climate change – both to help prevent it from getting worse and to be better prepared to deal with it – turn out to be a very similar laundry-list of items. And deploying renewable energy and microgrids is an important piece of that.”

Aerial view of Santa Rita Jail

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photo source: California Energy Commission

More Resources
Santa Rita Jail Energy Tour
Santa Rita Jail Photovoltaic Project
California jail transformed into modern microgrid

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