Yavapai County first: Court, jail going solar

Five-year-old Alden Webb, grandson of Yavapai County Facilities Director Ken Van Keuren, takes a turn shoveling dirt following Friday's groundbreaking ceremony for a solar field and parking canopies at the Camp Verde Detention Center. VVN/Bill Helm

Five-year-old Alden Webb, grandson of Yavapai County Facilities Director Ken Van Keuren, takes a turn shoveling dirt following Friday's groundbreaking ceremony for a solar field and parking canopies at the Camp Verde Detention Center. VVN/Bill Helm

CAMP VERDE -- Yavapai County government is joining the growing number of solar plants, starting in Camp Verde.

Yavapai County officials broke ground on a solar panel array to generate power for the Yavapai County Jail and Superior Court building. The pilot solar system will take advantage of the solar placement to shade vehicles in the court building parking lot.

"It's about time!" declared Scott Mascher, Yavapai County sheriff. "The jail uses a tremendous amount of energy and this is exactly the route we need to go."

Yavapai County and Camp Verde elected officials, judges and others involved in the project wielded golden shovels to break ground.

Tom Thurman, District 2 supervisor who is shepherding the project, said APS has an upper limit beyond which local power generation is prohibited, so as not to become a power producer. The solar field at Camp Verde will fall just below that limit.

The combined panel arrays will produce 791 kilowatts of power and be cost neutral for the county.

"The most important thing," Thurman said, "is that it will hold down our kilowatt hour cost for 20 years as electricity costs go up elsewhere.

RGS Energy is building the project.

The solar won't pay for everything, but it will cover a third of the cost that reaches about a half million dollars per year.

The project will generate power for the massive jail complex as well as the Superior Court Building and a proposed juvenile probation facility to be constructed nearby.

Jack Smith, District 5 supervisor, said the project would lessen "our carbon footprint" through an ongoing program to generate solar electricity "and to save money for the taxpayers."

"The county will also add additional insulation and reflective material to also reduce costs," according to Kenney Van Keuren, County Facilities director.

The Camp Verde project is just the first of a series of Yavapai projects to go solar. The Yavapai County Juvenile Detention facility, being built in Prescott is being wired to accommodate solar as well.

The county also hopes to build another jail nearby, and Thurman wants that facility to be powered by solar, too.

Craig Brown of District 4 added, "We are talking about retrofitting our other buildings, the records building and on Fair Street ... so we are trying to find as many places as we can make that application. Some will even have covered parking."

"It's a great plan and I am all for energy independence and cost savings to partner with the utility companies. I think it is a great concept," said Mascher.

The project will be installed from May through September.

Contact the reporter at jhutchinson@verdenews.com, Twitter @_jhutchinson

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