Santa Rosa has begun installing nearly a thousand solar panels atop four city parking garages, modules that will both shade vehicles from the sun and reduce the city’s energy costs.

“I’m excited to see a much smaller PG&E bill,” said Luke Morse, the city’s parking supervisor as he helped organize the delivery of the panels on Tuesday.

A huge crane began hoisting the photovoltaic panels and the steel canopies that will support them onto garage roofs Tuesday morning.

If all goes well, the installations should take about a month per garage, with the project completed in a few months.

The city estimates the $1.4 million project will pay for itself in about 11 years and save $1.4 million in power costs over the 25-year life of the arrays.

That should help the city achieve about 10 percent of its 2020 greenhouse gas emission reduction target, said Kim Nadaeu, parking district manager.

It might not seem like parking garages have high electricity loads, but all have lights that stay on around the clock, as well as elevators, automatic gates, and, in one case, city office space, Nadaeu noted.

All told, the 996 panels on the four garages will produce about 320 kilowatts of power and offset most of the garages’ electricity usage.

Perching them on canopies means there will be few parking spaces lost due to the project.

The installation is being performed by Sprig Electric of San Jose. The panels themselves are made in Asia by Ontario-based Canadian Solar.

“It’s cool to see the city putting money into renewables,” said Sal Costanzo, project manager with Sprig Electric.

The project has taken more than three years to get to this stage.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 707-521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @srcitybeat.