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Solar Energy to Power U.S. Postal Facility

The U.S. Postal Service's Marina Mail Processing and Distribution Center in Marina del Ray, Calif. has installed a new roof-integrated solar power system, in an effort to reduce its demand on California's electrical supply.

The new 127 kilowatt system – installed by the Berkeley, Calif.-based PowerLight Corporation -- has the capacity to power 120 homes, and will reduce the facility's energy consumption from the electrical grid by about 10% during peak hours. According to the U.S. Postal Service, the system is the largest roof-integrated solar photovoltaic system to be installed on a federal building.

The postal service utilized federal and local incentive programs to fund the project. Funding sources included: the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power's Solar Incentive Program, and the U.S. Department of Energy's Distributed Energy Resources Program. The Lawrence Berkeley National Lab provided technical assistance for the facility, helping with siting and contractor and technology selection.

According to the postal service, low maintenance requirements are one of the benefits of Marina facility’s photovoltaic system -- an important feature for the 24-hour mail processing and distribution center that handles between 3 million to 4 million pieces of mail daily.

According to PowerLight president Daniel Shugar, use of solar power at the Marina facility is possible because of recent technological improvements; the photovoltaic systems have been adapted for large-scale uses, in part because panels no longer have to be pointed directly at the sun to be effective.

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