February 06, 2018
The City of Willits installed a photovoltaic (PV) solar system producing about 5.61 kilowatts of energy, and will install a new electric vehicle charging system next week.
“It’s less expensive and a whole lot cleaner,” Building and Code Enforcement official John Sherman said about the PV solar system.
Producing enough energy to run a one bedroom apartment, according to Sherman, the solar system has been running for the last three weeks. Essentially, the system supports the energy needed to run the City’s lights and office equipment. The solar system is not producing enough energy yet to support the entire building’s needs, such as air conditioning.
“The goal is to get the City completely on solar,” said John Takes, CEO of North Bay Solar Electric, the company who donated the system and labor to install it.
It will be at least another month before the City knows how much the system has saved in energy costs according to Sherman. Additionally, they are still working out a contract with PG&E so they can purchase power back from the City.
“If we produce more power than we use, PG&E can purchase that back from us,” Sherman said. However, that’s no easy process, he added, explaining that factors such as fluctuating rates complicate prices.
Located on the south end of the building’s roof, the solar panels aren’t visible from ground level. However, what is visible from ground level is the old electric vehicle charging system in the parking lot. Takes will also be installing the new electric vehicle charging system. He said the old one he installed back in the early 1990s is outdated and rusty. Soon Willits will have more places to charge electric vehicles. The Mendocino Council of Governments (MCOG) is in the process of installing additional electric vehicle charging systems at various locations throughout the city, according to council Deputy Director Janet Orth. She said the systems will be installed in the parking lot near the county museum and in the City parking lot at the corner of School Street and W. Mendocino Avenue.
Orth said neighboring cities such as Fort Bragg and Point Arena are also working on updating their charging systems. “The stations are an important link in a larger network” she said. “Allowing expanded EV travel and encouraging locals and visitors to stop in Willits.”
“I’m glad to hear they’re putting up solar,” Orth said about the City, adding that charging up electric vehicles with renewable energy is ideal for people trying to use clean energy.
Photo and Article by Hilary Ojeda of the Willits News