IMAGE: SOLAR PANELS IN PARKING LOT
Chevron Corp.
This solar power system was mounted on a parking canopy at the U.S. Postal Service’s processing center in San Francisco, Calif.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 2/15/2006 9:43:32 AM ET 2006-02-15T14:43:32

Two large U.S. Postal Service buildings are getting a good part of their energy from the sun, hydrogen and fuel cells as part of a project that partners say is reducing pollution and will save money in the long run.

The $15 million project, spearheaded by Chevron Corp.'s energy solutions division, is expected to lower electricity costs in the two buildings by $1.2 million annually. Coupled with government rebates and grants, the Postal Service expects to fully recoup its costs within seven years.

With the conversion, the two buildings — spanning a combined 1.2 million square feet to handle 7.5 million pieces of mail daily — will draw energy from solar panels and hydrogen fuel cell technology. The new power sources will reduce pollution by eliminating the discharge of about 6,600 tons of carbon dioxide.

A hybrid solar/fuel cell power plant generates electricity from hydrogen produced internally from natural gas as well as from solar panels on a parking canopy.

The Postal Service hired Chevron to help lower its energy costs throughout northern California as it tries to alleviate financial pressures that contributed to this year's two-cent increase in the price for mailing a first-class letter. The Postal Service intends to eventually convert all of its facilities nationwide to alternative energy sources.

"This is a way to promote green technology and environmentally sound practices," said Jim Davis, president of Chevron's energy solutions division. "This shows that Chevron has a number of different businesses besides our (oil) base."

It's been difficult to ignore the oil industry recently as soaring prices have generated record profits for Chevron and its rivals, riling politicians who believe the companies have been gouging consumers at the gas pump. In the past two years, Chevron has earned $27.4 billion, nearly as much as its combined profit in the previous decade.

Steve Johnson, head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, praised Chevron during Friday's ceremony, hailing the company's Postal Service project as proof that "what's good for the environment is good for business."

The $15 million cost was funded by $8.3 million in energy savings, $4 million from the USPS's CFC refrigerant replacement program, and nearly $2.6 million in grants and incentives from the state of California and the U.S. Department of Defense Climate Change Fuel Cell Program.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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