How do you take an empty East County lot and turn it into a multi-million dollar project without spending any money? One water district is using both the sun and the shade to shine.
The seven Santee lakes are owned and operated by the Padre Dam Municipal Water District. Water experts who somehow found a way to make their future energy needs flow for free.
"The project helps Santee Lakes maintain its self-sufficiency," Santee Lakes Manager Allen Carlisle said.
This ingenious multi-million dollar money maker works like this: below the parking structure RV owners pay big money to keep their toys out of the sun, and up above, 14,000 solar panels soak up that same sun.
John Supp from the California Center for Sustainable Energy is a solar expert who knows how to sell the sun.
"We're here to help entities like Padre Dam understand a relatively complicated package of solar and financing utility tariffs and boil it down and make it something they can easily understand," Supp said.
In a deal that seems too good to be true, the Padre Dam folks will own the $7 million solar contraption in 20 years. All they had to do was sign a long-term purchasing agreement with energy giant Sun Edison and Borrego Solar, promising to buy the solar energy generated there for two decades, instead of paying $125,000 a year to SDG&E for the same energy with no long-term gain.
The Padre Dam Municipal Water District will double dip, cashing in on a free energy future and don't forget about down below, where 300 RV owners will pay $360,000 a year to park in the shade.
"This solar project is not only good for business, it's good for the environment, producing enough energy to power 125 homes a year that in turn will reduce 1.4 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions annually," Supp said.
You may be wondering what' sin this deal for Sun Edison and Borrego Solar. They cash in on millions of dollars worth of tax credits and accelerated depreciation.
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