The Western Riverside County Regional Wastewater Authority not only uses solar power at its wastewater treatment plant, but is contributing power back to the grid with a new solar power-generating system.
The agency recently installed a 916-kilowatt system at its El Sobrante Operations Center. It is a tracking system that follows the sun throughout the day to better harness its energy; the authority says it can capture up to 30 percent more sunlight than fixed systems. Officials predict that the system will save up to $4.6 million in utility costs over the next 20 years, as well as prevent 944 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.
John Rossi, the general manager of the wastewater authority, said the investment in solar power will "help hold down our rates for the services we provide our customers," according to news reports.
This isn't the first time the agency has taken advantage of solar power's benefits. In 2009, the wastewater authority installed more than 5,000 solar panels on nine acres at its wastewater treatment plant. The panels can provide up to 1 megawatt of energy during peak hours, equivalent to powering more than 200 homes each year. At its peak, the agency states, the solar panels can provide one-quarter of the power needed for the treatment plant's operations.
In addition to energy cost savings, the agency says solar power can increase the wastewater treatment plant's reliability and can guard against possible power outages during peak energy usage times. The regional authority has also made a commitment to lowering the amount of greenhouse gases in the area through the use of renewable energy, according to officials.