Southern California’s primary provider of drinking water plans to turn to the sun to help power one of the nation’s largest water treatment plants.
Metropolitan Water District’s Board of Directors Tuesday (June 9) voted to invest $12.6 million to develop a 3-megawatt solar power generating facility on 15.5 acres at the district’s F.E. Weymouth Water Treatment Plant in La Verne.
“Our board recognizes using clean, renewable energy to help power the Weymouth plant is good for the region, the environment and our agency. It will reduce our carbon footprint as well as our operational costs and exposure to volatile electricity prices. In that respect, it’s beneficial for us all,” said Metropolitan board Chairman Randy Record.
“Just as we work to encourage the conservation of the state’s precious water resources, we actively support the protection of our environment through responsible use of renewable energy resources when possible,” Record said.
The La Verne installation is expected to produce 6.6 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of clean, renewable energy a year, enough to power 1,000 homes. The produced energy will be used at the plant, helping to offset nearly 60,000 tons of greenhouse gases over the project’s lifetime. Serving portions of eastern Los Angeles and Orange counties, the Weymouth plant can treat up to 520 million gallons of water per day and ranks among the 10 largest water treatment facilities in the nation.
Metropolitan General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger said energy generated by the solar facility will help offset retail electricity costs and reduce operational costs, while providing a hedge against future volatility in the price of electricity. He noted the project has an expected lifespan of up to 30 years and is anticipated to generate enough savings to pay for itself in 10 to 12 years.
“The current low cost of solar products and available financial incentives make this an ideal time for this environmentally friendly investment to improve our long-term sustainability,” Kightlinger said.
“This is one of several options we’re exploring to operate in the most environmentally friendly way possible and will allow us to consider other opportunities to expand our solar energy portfolio in the future,” he added.
The La Verne solar farm will feature 190 sun-tracking stations, supporting 10,470 photovoltaic modules. Each module weighs about 60 pounds and will generate about 325 watts. The stations employ a tracking system that allows the panels to follow the sun’s path from east to west, producing more power than fixed panels.
This project marks the district’s second investment in solar power. In May 2009, Metropolitan commenced operation of a 10-acre field of solar panels at the district’s Robert A. Skinner Water Treatment Plant in southwest Riverside County. Today, the 1-megawatt facility generates about 2.3 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity, nearly 20 percent of the power used by the plant.
As part of Tuesday’s action, Metropolitan’s board awarded a $10.5 million contract to the Rancho Cucamonga-based Kana Engineering Group, Inc. to construct the solar facility. Construction is expected to begin next month, with plans to start-up the solar plant by March 2016.
Any energy generated by the project that is not used by the Weymouth plant will be credited toward other existing accounts Metropolitan maintains with Southern California Edison through SCE’s Renewable Energy Self-Generation Bill Credit Transfer program.
Additionally, Metropolitan will receive a $1 million rebate over the first five years of operation as part of the California Solar Initiative.