Thursday, December 06, 2007

Solar System Pays Off for ALZA Plant in Vacaville

Solar system pays off for ALZA plant in Vacaville
By Barry Eberling | DAILY REPUBLIC | December 05, 2007 16:39

People walk through a 6.5 acre, 1 megawatt solar panel field built by ALZA Corporation in Vacaville Wednesday afternoon. Pacific Gas and Electric Company and Pacific Power Management presented ALZA with a $2,999,313 rebate incentive Wednesday. Photo by Brad ZweerinkVACAVILLE

Sunlight means electricity for the ALZA Corp., enough to meet one third of the peak summer needs at its Vacaville plant, an equivalent to the power demands from 200 homes.

The pharmaceutical company's new solar array has rows and rows of black photovoltaic panels spread across 6.5 acres, some 5,740 panels in all. This is one of the largest privately owned commercial arrays in California.

'It's very impressive to look out and see a one-megawatt solar field,' said Dan Pellissier, who represented the Schwarzenegger administration on Wednesday at a celebration for ALZA's achievement.

The celebration took place inside a fancy tent near the solar array. Chandeliers hanging from the ceiling provided light. Flower arrangements abounded. A buffet included such items as anticucho de filete and wild mushroom phyllo pursettes.

PG&E officials came to the site to present the company with a $2.9 million rebate for the $9 million project. ALZA expects to save $300,000 annually in energy costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1.4 million pounds annually.

'We realize these initiatives are not only good for the environment and the community as a whole, but also make good business sense,' said Henry Esparza of the ALZA Corp.

Vacaville Mayor Len Augustine said the city is not really known as an environmental area. But, he said, the city not only has the ALZA solar array, but such things as the solar-powered homes at the Ventana subdivision, park-and-ride lots and a city program promoting compressed natural gas cars for residents.

'We're very proud of our environmental record,' Augustine said.

Novato-based SPG Solar Inc. built the solar array project.

ALZA has other alternative energy ventures. Its Mountain View plant is largely powered by methane gas from a closed city dump. The company has its headquarters in Mountain View and is owned by Johnson & Johnson.

This is just the latest solar energy effort in Solano County. In March, PG&E gave the Meyer Corp. in Fairfield a $1.4 million rebate for the cookware company's $4 million rooftop solar panel system.

PG&E has given $12.5 million self-generation rebates to Solano County ventures since 2002 and plans to award another $12.5 million for future ventures, said Clay Schmidt of PG&E.

Local governments are also trying solar energy. Examples include the Solano County health and social services buildings in Fairfield, the Solano County Government Center in Fairfield and the city hall, police station and city-owned pump station in Vallejo.

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646, Ext. 232, or at

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