CalTrans Launches Solar Array, Supports Local Economy

The California Department of Transportation, or Caltrans, announced last Wednesday that a solar power array is now online at a maintenance facility in Monterey. The 9.6-kilowatt system was designed and installed in July by local companies Earth Electric and Green Earth Engineering. It passed final inspections last week before the launch of renewable electricity production.

The maintenance facility and solar array are located in Caltrans District 5. Director Rich Krumholz noted in a press release, “We are thrilled to be a part of the green energy movement,” and went on to emphasize the importance of the local public/private partnership with Earth Electric and Green Earth Engineering that facilitated the projects design and completion.

In California, government entities are not required to undergo a bidding process for energy-related projects like the Caltrans solar system. However, the district decided to go ahead and open the project up to local bidders in an effort to stretch public funding as far as it could go. These savings, perhaps, have helped make possible existing plans for solar arrays at Caltrans sites in Santa Cruz, San Luis Obispo, Santa Maria, Buellton and Santa Barbara.

The focus on local companies ensures the creation and maintenance of local jobs and revenue. It also means that public money invested in government infrastructure is spent in a way that reinvests as much of that as possible back into the local community.

“Every bid that is awarded to local business not only supports the local economy but serves to educate and improve the process for everyone involved, including engineers, installers and inspectors,” said Angelo Perez, CEO of Green Earth Engineering.

Matthew Welch, president of Earth Electric and solar instructor at San Jose City College, added that because of this public-private connectivity, ““My company is stronger, local installers gain experience, and my students benefit from first-hand knowledge of the solar bid and installation process. The positive effects of local government agencies supporting local green businesses are felt long after the project is complete.”

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