More municipal water facilities across California are realizing the benefits of on-site solar installations, and some are helping communities save even more money than originally anticipated.
The motivation for these projects is similar to one driving many school districts to embrace renewable energy - the money saved over time for the local community.
The most recent example comes from Hanford, where a new 1-megawatt (MW) ground-mounted, single-axis array at the city's water treatment plant is expected to cut electricity costs in half, adding up to $7 million over the lifetime of the project.
Similar savings have been reported for 26 solar installations at water agencies and districts across California. Collectively, the systems saved $5.3 million over the past 12 months, says SunPower, which is managing the projects.
SunPower has built 25 MW of solar systems at 43 water facilities over the past decade. Most of the systems are generating slightly better results than originally anticipated – an average of 102% of anticipated production.
"Water agencies and facilities typically have huge energy demand and a responsibility to rate payers to minimize operational costs," says Howard Wenger of SunPower. "We are very pleased that our water agency and district customers are seeing returns above and beyond expectations, delivering added value to the public agencies and their ratepayers."
SunPower is building two more solar systems for water agencies.
A 922-kilowatt (kW) system for Western Municipal Water District in Riverside is expected to generate 75% of its electricity. The district already benefits from a 1 MW system at its West Riverside Wastewater Treatment plant.
A 1.2 MW system for the City of Oceanside Water Utilities Department will generate 25%-30% of its electricity, saving an estimated $1.6 million over the next 20 years.
Both solar systems are financed under power purchase agreements.