City of Chico Generates Clean Energy with SunPower

We're proud to be harnessing Chico's abundant sunshine and deploying solar power. Clean, emission-free, onsite solar generation enables us to be responsible stewards of our region—improving our community’s health and quality of life.

– Dan Nguyen-Tan, Council Member, City of Chico


Located in Butte County, California, the City of Chico was founded in 1860 by General John Bidwell. Chico maintains an historic downtown, a wide variety of services and family oriented neighborhoods. Chico is known as a well-managed city that values quality infrastructure and services, and retains a special sense of community and small-town living even though it has developed into a vibrant center for business, recreation and cultural activities.


Inspired by the growing number of California cities and counties that have successfully embraced solar power, Chico lawmakers and City Manager Tom Lando decided to deploy clean, reliable on-site solar photovoltaics (PV) on City properties. Chico’s new solar array harnesses sunlight to generate emissions-free electricity, as well as stabilize the municipality’s utility bills.


The City installed multiple solar generation systems throughout Chico. First, the City installed a unique solar electric carport which makes use of an unused asset—an existing parking lot in downtown Chico in July 2004. The following October, the City completed the installation of a 1,107 kW SunPower® T0 Solar Tracker system at its Water Pollution Control Plant, making Chico one of the largest municipal users of solar generated power.

Covering a combined area of over five acres, Chico’s solar generation project is one of the largest municipal solar projects in Butte County, and capable of generating enough electricity during the daytime to power over 1,200 homes.

SunPower's Fixed-Tilt Technology Maximizes Sunlight Capture

The solar electric system installed at Chico’s Water Pollution Control Plant features a SunPower® T0 Tracker System which maximizes the sun’s available energy by capturing up to 25% more daylight than fixed arrays, as the tracker follows the sun from early morning to late afternoon. The system uses high efficiency PV modules to generate maximum output per square foot. The modules are composed of solar cells made of solid-state semiconductors to convert sunlight into direct current (DC) electricity.The DC output from the PV modules is then converted to alternating current (AC) electricity by inverters for use by the City of Chico.

Versatile Use of SunPower's Installation

The solar electric parking system installed at Chico’s downtown parking structure generates power for the facility while providing covered parking and shade for vehicles.The solar electric parking array is made of 480 photovoltaic panels, which deliver electricity directly into the City’s electrical grid. The parking systems features a fully engineered mechanical mounting system to securely fasten the solar electric panels, providing strength as well as structural integrity.

Project Overview

Water Pollution Control Plant 
Location:    Chico, CA
Date Completed:    October 2005
System Peak Capacity:    1,107 kW
System Area:    5 acres
Solar Electric Tiles:    5,824
Products:    SunPower® Tracker

Downtown Parking System 
Location:    Chico, CA
Date Completed:    July 2004
System Peak Capacity:    91 kW
PV Surface Area:    940 square feet
Solar Electric Tiles:    480
Products:    SunPower Parking System


The City of Chico views its solar generation system as a way of reducing demand for energy from the utility grid, lowering operating costs and improving air quality for its citizens. By generating solar power, Chico is effective reducing its purchases of expensive peak electricity and doing its part to address California’s ongoing energy challenges. The grid-connected systems reduces the City’s electrical load, especially during peak demand times when the utility grid is the most strained and electricity is most expensive. Chico anticipates average savings of $250,000 annually in avoided electricity purchases, with total net savings of $4 million over the next 30 years.

Chico’s solar power system spares the environment from tons of harmful emissions, such as nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides and carbon dioxide, which are major contributors to smog, acid rain and global warming. Over the 30-year lifetime of the photovoltaic systems, the combined solar generated electricity will reduce emissions of carbon-dioxide by 19,300 tons. These emissions reductions are equivalent to planting 5,500 acres of trees, removing almost 3,900 cars or not driving 49 million miles on Butte County’s roadways.