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Public-private partnership thrives at Anaheim Convention Center

As two city departments in California, Anaheim Convention Center and Anaheim Public Utilities found it easy to work together to implement sustainability programs at the more than 1.1 million square-foot venue.  

Whether it was collaborating on energy-efficient lighting or constructing a green garden to act as an insulator to lower air conditioning costs, the relationship prepared the two to work together on a large-scale project with a third party, Borrego Solar Systems.

City and state officials along with Borrego Solar Systems' representatives.
City of Anaheim and California officials along with Borrego Solar Systems’ staff.

After a Request for Proposal (RFP) process, Anaheim Public Utilities chose Borrego to install a $5.7-million 2.4-megawatt solar panel system on the roof of the Anaheim Convention Center from January to August of this year.

The system now generates enough energy to annually power 600 residences in the City of Anaheim. As a customer of the utilities department, Anaheim Convention Center too benefits from this renewable energy source as well as the status that comes from being home to such a major project. The solar panel system is also another avenue with which the utilities department can meet a government mandate that requires 33 percent of California’s power supply come from renewable sources by 2020.

“We initially looked at third parties to build and own the project, and utilities would buy the power from the person who built it. When we sent out the RFP, the pricing came in higher than expected,” explained Steve Sciortino, assistant general manager of Joint Services, Anaheim Public Utilities.

Taking advice from financial advisors, Anaheim Public Utilities leaders realized it would be less expensive to become the manager and owner of the project. The city department needed a site for the solar panel system and chose to maximize 300,000 square feet of space on the roof of Anaheim Convention Center after vetoing other facilities as options.

“The convention center was the logical choice due to the size of its roof. It had the largest square footage in the area,” added Sciortino.

Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait
Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait

A site inspection also ensured the roof provided a flat area receptive to the rays of the sun, so the utilities department leased the space and partnered with Borrego Solar Systems. The company designed and installed 7,908 solar panels, making the system the largest of its kind upon completion.

Borrego brought in a crew ranging from five to 35 a day, but overall, 60 worked on the project. Electricians, medium voltage workers, trenchers, fencers, temporary fencers, roofers, concrete workers, asphalt workers and more expertly worked around the venue’s convention schedule to complete the project on time.

“We had weekly close coordination meetings with the convention center staff to discuss upcoming conferences and events at the convention center. This allowed us to shift workloads from atop one exhibit hall to another if we knew an event was setting up or tearing down that week,” stated Kyle Kearney, vice president of Project Development for the Western U.S., Borrego Solar Systems. “Our crews were able to cross reference the short-term challenges presented by the convention center staff with the long-term construction schedule and keep busy on site where they’d have minimal impact.”

As well as meeting frequently with Borrego, Anaheim Public Utilities also conducted meetings with the convention center and engineers to ensure the roof was structurally sound to hold the solar panels and tradeshow displays simultaneously. This was put to the test at an air tradeshow, according to Sciortino, where a helicopter display needed to be attached to the venue’s ceiling. The show went off without a hitch, and so did the partnership between Anaheim Convention Center, Anaheim Public Utilities and Borrego Solar Systems.

Sciortino called the endeavor a success and an example of a great public-private partnership that not only benefits Anaheim residents but also could attract tradeshows that value venues involved in sustainable initiatives.

The success of the project was illustrated at a dedication ceremony on Oct. 7. The celebratory event brought together city officials, including Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait; state representatives and staff from Borrego Solar Systems.

See related article:Anaheim Convention Center receives $5.7M solar energy system.”

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