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Rancho Cielo hosts solar project groundbreaking

SALINAS, Calif. (KION-TV)- Rancho Cielo Youth Campus is going green.

The non-profit learning and social services program held a groundbreaking ceremony at the Ted Taylor Vocational Center on Tuesday morning for their new solar project that will help cut the energy costs of their campus.

The project did receive a $200,000 tax rebate courtesy of the Inflation Reduction Act which cut the project total at $450,000.

U.S. District 19 Congressman Jimmy Panetta co-authored the bill and has personal ties to Rancho Cielo. Before taking office, Panetta served as a board member for Rancho Cielo.

"They are actually providing training, education and on the job vocational skills for their students to use outside of here in their communities especially when it comes to clean energy projects," Panetta said.

Panetta was joined by Rancho Cielo Founder John Phillips, who served as a former Monterey County Judge and County Supervisor. Rancho Cielo staff and students also were part of the ceremony as well.

Students enrolled in their Ag Technology, Construction and Youth Corps programs will be involved in the installation and maintenance of the solar panel system since it will be installed in the field. Scudder Solar Energy Systems based out of Marina will be overseeing the project.

"This is a 200 kilowatt system with 420 panels covering over 13,000 square feet, including the roof and ground mount system,” said Pete Scudder, who is the president and owner of Scudder Roofing and Solar.

Rancho Cielo said the project will help reduce their estimated $100,000/year electricity bill, with an estimated five-year breakeven point.

Rancho Cielo CEO Chris Devers said that this project will expose students to potential careers in the solar energy field.

"We are going to no doubt have to get more and more of our energy from the sun and continue to develop these technologies." Devers said. "They are going to need trades people and labor to install and maintain and take down the systems for a long time to come."

Phillips said environmental initiatives like this solar project will allow the program to do its part in reducing the carbon footprint.

"We wanted to be good stewards of this 100-acre facility that has been placed in our hands to run and develop and we want to do it in a positive way," Phillips said.

The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2023 and expected to power up by New Year's Day 2024.

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Derrick Ow

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