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50-acre solar rooftop installation up and running in San Pedro

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50,000 panels spread across 2 million square feet

Rows of rooftop solar panels
The solar installation is spread across multiple rooftops at the Westmont Distribution Center near the Port of LA.
Photos by Elijah Chiland

Editor's Note: This post was originally published in June, 2017 and has been updated with the most recent information.

Los Angeles—where the sun shines three out of every four days per year—is now home to one of the largest rooftop solar installations ever constructed.

On Monday, Mayor Eric Garcetti toured the recently completed Westmont Solar Rooftop project in San Pedro, a 2 million-square-foot arrangement of solar panels that is expected to generate up to 16.4 megawatts of power for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power—enough to supply around 5,000 homes.

The installation was developed by solar energy installation firm PermaCity as part of the DWP’s Feed-in Tariff program, which allows property owners to sell energy gathered from rooftop solar installations directly to the power company.

The program was developed as a strategy to help DWP meet a state mandate requiring electricity providers to source at least one-third of their power from renewable sources by 2020.

Rows of solar panels

The San Pedro installation is the largest of 41 FiT projects completed thus far, eclipsing a 5.1-megawatt project installed in 2015 at the Forever 21 headquarters in Lincoln Heights. Another large project is under construction now at a U.S. Postal Service processing center in South LA. When complete, it’s expected to generate about 11 megawatts of power, with 10 being sold to DWP and the remainder being used to power the facility itself.

Garcetti had high praise for the Westmont rooftop project Monday, pointing to an estimate that it would create 500 local jobs.

Solar panels with Vincent Thomas bridge in background

The solar installation is spread across multiple rooftops at the Westmont Distribution Center, close to the 110 Freeway. All told, the project includes over 50,000 photovoltaic panels capable of producing 565 million killowatt hours over the next 20 years.

The panels have a bifacial design, which means that they can collect reflected light from the surface of the roof in addition to direct sunlight. This should allow them to gather about 45 percent more power than a traditional solar panel. DWP claims the project will be the most powerful rooftop installation in the nation.

In terms of environmental impact, PermaCity estimates that the carbon emissions savings generated by the project will be equivalent to removing 6,000 cars from local streets.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the project would be the largest of its kind in the nation. In fact, the rooftop installation at Apple’s campus in Cupertino is slightly larger. We apologize for the error.