SALINAS — Rancho Cielo Youth Campus hosted a ceremonial groundbreaking last week for the Rancho Cielo Solar Project, which will greatly reduce electricity costs at the Salinas facility.
According to Rancho Cielo officials, the project’s three goals are: to build on the organization’s dedication to going green; to cut energy costs for the campus; and to teach students about clean energy.
During his speech at the Aug. 15 event, U.S. Rep. Jimmy Panetta shared information on the Inflation Reduction Act, a bill that he helped author and one that has been instrumental in establishing the Rancho Cielo Solar Project.
“In that act, there is this clean energy tax credit that was extended by Congress, through the IRA, that allows Rancho Cielo to offset the cost of this project by 30%,” said Panetta, who represents California’s 19th congressional district.
Rancho Cielo Board Chair Janine Chicourrat encouraged Panetta to include that 30% rebate for nonprofits during a visit to Washington, D.C.
Thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, adding solar to the Rancho Cielo campus has become a reality. This will also benefit the Rancho Cielo Ag Technology and Mechatronics students, as they get hands-on experience with solar installation.
“The project is going to allow Rancho Cielo students the training that they are going to need to learn how to install these types of clean energy projects — not just here on campus — but throughout our community,” Panetta said.
According to Rancho Cielo CEO Chris Devers, the solar system itself cost $650,000, with the rebate provided by the Inflation Reduction Act covering $200,000 of that total cost.
Once the solar system is installed, it will greatly reduce Rancho’s hefty $100,000 per year electricity bill, with an estimated five-year breakeven point. In 25 years, Rancho Cielo estimates to save approximately $3 million in electricity costs.
Scudder Solar has been contracted to build the new solar system, and Don Chapin will be prepping the groundwork. Pete Scudder, CEO of Scudder Solar, reviewed the project specs during the groundbreaking.
“This is a 200 kilowatt system with 420 panels covering over 13,000 square feet, including the roof and ground mount system,” explained Scudder.
After the speeches, Congressman Panetta, Chicourrat, Devers, Scudder, Rancho Cielo Founder John Phillips and Rancho Cielo Board Member and Monterey County Supervisor Chris Lopez went to the site of the project for a ceremonial groundbreaking.
Rancho Cielo’s mission is to invest in all young people facing challenges for success through diploma education, vocational training, counseling and life skills development in a safe and affirming environment. With a focus on serving the community, Rancho Cielo currently supports over 200 students, with 78% hailing from Salinas, and 94% identifying as Latino.
The organization equips graduates with the skills, resilience and determination to thrive in a rapidly changing and culturally diverse society, fostering their health, happiness and economic freedom.