Palm Springs Cultural Center Upgrades with Solar + Storage

The Palm Springs Cultural Center, which hosts a number of film festivals and live performances annually, has completed the installation of a solar-plus-battery-storage system, the non-profit organization announced on March 27.

The Cultural Center decided to replace the building’s HVAC system after its air conditioning went out in 2015. California’s Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP),which provides rebates for qualifying distributed energy systems installed on the customer’s side of the utility meter; combined with the state’s Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing program, enabled the center to install solar-plus-storage with minimal up-front investment.

Ice Energy, a provider of distributed thermal energy storage solutions, and Horizon Solar Power, a developer and installer of solar PV systems, deployed the 73.6 kW of solar panels and five Ice Energy Ice Bear 30s, which have replaced the Center’s outdated HVAC system.

The Ice Bear batteries charge by making ice during off-peak hours, when rates are low. When demand peaks and rates go up, the battery turns off the AC compressor and uses the ice it has stored to provide cooling instead for up to four hours.  A smart-grid controller monitors energy use and controls the performance of the system.

“The results speak for themselves,” according to Ice Energy, which claims that it achieves a 95 percent reduction of peak cooling electricity use and immediate savings.

“We’re witnessing a trend in which the incentives for solar power export are decreasing, so businesses and homeowners are looking for new ways to maximize their investments in solar PV,” said Ice Energy CEO Mike Hopkins. “A well-designed solar-plus-Ice-storage system like this one can provide efficient cooling comfort, optimize the use of solar over-generation, and help utilities to flatten their load on a grid-wide scale.”

“The Cultural Center’s greatest energy load comes from turning on the AC in late afternoons and early evenings for community events,” said Claude McGee, Horizon Solar Power director of Business Development. “The clean energy created by our solar PV system, combined with the flexible storage and cooling solution provided by the Ice Bears, reduces both the Center’s energy bill and the community’s carbon footprint.”

Indeed, Palm Springs has become a hub for solar installations. “You just naturally have high electric bills out there, which makes solar really pay for itself more quickly than in other parts of the state,” Bernadette del Chiaro, executive director of the California Solar Energy Industries Association, a Sacramento-based trade group, told The Desert Sun.

Indeed, according to the Electricity Local website, the average commercial electricity rate in Palm Springs is 05 percent greater thanthe national average rate of 10.09¢/kWh. Commercial rates nationwide. range from 6.86¢/kWh to 34.88¢/kWh, the website reports.

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