LEMOORE — Solar power is a hot ticket, and it’s coming to a theater near you. The rooftop at Lemoore Stadium Cinemas has been covered with enough solar panels to generate 148 kilowatts of power, offsetting between 70 and 80 percent of the theater’s power costs.

“It’s one of the first theaters in the state to do this,” said James Shepard, chief financial officer for the Paso Robles-based Cal Paso Solar Electric.

Theater owner John Roush said he wanted the project to generate as much solar power possible to maximize the environmental and financial benefits.

That goal required some extra homework in the planning phases.

“When I first came up here and measured it out, I told my boss I would do 500 [panels],” said project coordinator Dan Doornbos. “And he goes, ‘Well that’s not enough.’ So we came back and I told him we could do 600. And he said, ‘That’s not enough.’ Then we went to the plans to figure out where we could put them and we ended up with 728.”

Roush said he spends around $80,000 per year to run all the lights, projectors, concessions and air conditioning that make up the movie-going experience. His November bill shows 27,500 kilowatt-hours, which is only about a third of what the theater uses in the summertime.

“It boggles your mind when you think about everything that uses power,” Roush said. “It boggles my mind when I pay the bill every month.”

The project will cost about $730,000, but a federal tax credit will knock off 30 percent. Roush said he had considered solar power in the past, but it was too expensive. He expects the system to pay for itself within seven years.

Roush said the only other solar-powered movie theater in California he is aware of is the three-screen Palm Theatre in San Luis Obispo.

“I would urge every business to take a look at this,” Roush said. “As long as the government continues their grant, it’s economically feasible. And the sun is always shining.”

Doornbos, who has been working on solar projects for about a year and a half, noted the large number of solar panels he’s seen just driving around Lemoore.

“I think the people around here are receptive to it,” he said. “The reason that solar is such a good deal is they’re not allowing any more nuclear plants and they’re eliminating some of the hydroelectric plants because of the fish and there’s more and more demand. As there’s more and more demand, it’s going to get costlier.”

With the panels all mounted, workers were tackling the wiring Monday morning. Doornbos said he intends to have the project finished by the end of the month. It all depends on how long it takes for the inverters, which convert direct current to alternating current, to arrive from the East Coast.

“They shipped them but I haven’t seen them yet,” he said. “Hopefully they shipped them here and they didn’t send them to Lemoore, China.”

The reporter can be reached at 583-2458 or meiman@HanfordSentinel.com.

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