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Orange County Register (California)
Ladera Ranch is putting hundreds of solar panels in Cox Sports Park, cutting the facility's electricity bill by more than 70 percent.
The panels in their first year are expected to generate more than $60,000 in savings for the community, according to the Ladera Ranch Maintenance Corporation's estimate.
LARMAC invested more than $400,000 in the project, which the corporation estimates will be paid for in five years. Through the panels, the corporation estimates it will have saved more than $6 million by 2043.
LARMAC Vice President Jeff Hamilton has been encouraging the use of solar panels for years as a way to save money for the master-planned community. He has the panels at his home, and has seen their benefits firsthand, he said.
"We don't even have an electric bill anymore," Hamilton said.
This is LARMAC's first solar installation project. It first looked into having the panels at clubhouses and carports, but each had its drawback, said the corporation's general manager Ken Gibson. There were limits on how many panels could be on the clubhouses' rooftops, he said.
"What we soon found, surprising to us, was that the bang for our buck was not quite there at our clubhouses," he said.
Hamilton said people didn't like the aesthetics of the panels on carports either.
Those concerns took LARMAC to Cox Sports Park's artificial turf soccer field. The park uses the most energy of any LARMAC facility, officials said.
The field does not use any electricity during the day, when electricity is at a premium.
So the electricity created by the panels goes straight to the region's power grid, giving the field credits that can be used to power its lights at night.
The panels will also provide shades for spectators at the field, Gibson said.
LARMAC would like to explore solar panels at other places in the community, albeit at a smaller scale, Gibson said. As for the park's panels, the corporation is just waiting for the signal to "flip the switch," he said.
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