The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) recently installed a landmark photovoltaic (PV) demonstration project at its Marina Processing and Distribution Center in Southern California.

The 409,630-square-foot facility was USPS’s ideal choice to save money, answer the state’s call to reduce electricity demand, and demonstrate the viability of PV systems.

The project features a 127-kilowatt PV installation on the facility’s flat roof and is expected to save $25,000 to $28,000 per year. USPS chose PowerLight Corporation to install the facility’s PV system, in part, because no roof penetrations were required. In addition, their proposed system has the benefits of added insulation and roof-life extension.


The PV system is linked to an energy management system (EMS) from CMS Viron Energy Services that monitors power output from the solar cells. When the EMS detects a decline in power output — for instance, cloud cover overhead — it automatically modifies the operation of the building’s chiller to compensate without affecting employee comfort. As a result, high demand charges from conventional power surges during PV generation drop-offs are avoided. Such constant reductions in peak demand also benefit the state’s electricity grid.

“The EMS has the potential to deliver significant extra savings,” noted Joe Vanden Berg, USPS area energy manager.

Ray Levinson, USPS area environmental manager, noted that “the site’s proactive management team was essential to selecting the project location.”

Dave Doty, Marina operations support specialist, said he recommended PV to management in the past. His interest stems from his observation that PV translates to “big savings for us and to the state as well.”


According to Levison, “A strong partnership made this project possible.”

In addition to the commitment by USPS management and site operations managers and the efforts of the technology providers, the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) played a technical advisory role. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and the Federal Energy Management Program’s (FEMP’s) Distributed Energy Resources Program provided key financial incentives that reduced the total cost of the project to USPS to $225,000.

All involved thought that the process went very smoothly. Levinson attributed this to the “willingness of people to be open-minded.

“This was particularly important because it is a demonstration project, and not a typical energy-efficiency project,” he said. “Once we got everyone’s buy-in, the project nearly completed itself.” Vanden Berg added that the professionalism of the people at PowerLight also contributed to its smooth execution.


Recently, USPS held a dedication ceremony in honor of the completion of the PV project. USPS officials, FEMP director Beth Shearer, and other state and local officials participated in the event.

USPS said it hopes to determine the potential future installations based on the performance of this project. To this end, PowerLight will monitor and evaluate the system for two years.

“This installation showcases the U.S. Postal Service’s energy and environmental leadership,” said Dan Shugar, executive vice president of PowerLight. “Based on the success of this project, we hope to see a series of cost-effective PV installations at USPS facilities across California and the rest of the country.”

Bill Golove of LBNL echoed these sentiments.

“The U.S. Postal Service has long demonstrated the significant leadership in moving toward an economically sound sustainable energy future,” said Golove.

For more information, contact Ray Levinson of USPS at 650-635-3292 ( or Bill Golove of LBNL at 510-486-5229 (

Publication date: 07/15/2002