With the dual goals of cutting carbon emissions and reducing operational costs, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, a state-established cooperative of 26 cities and water agencies serving nearly 19 million people in six counties, has unveiled its latest investment in solar power.
Specifically, the district has completed a 3 MW solar project at its F.E. Weymouth Water Treatment Plant in La Verne. Featuring 10,780 panels and covering 15.5 acres on two separate solar fields, the project will generate about 6.5 million kWh of clean energy a year, offsetting nearly half of the plant’s energy demands.
“As public stewards of our natural resources, Metropolitan is ever-conscious of the impact our operations have on the environment, from the delivery and treatment of water to the day-to-day operation of our facilities,” says Metropolitan Board Chairman Randy Record.
The project features a total of 539 sun-tracking stations, each supporting a string of 20 315-W panels. The district says the stations employ a tracking system that allows the panels to follow the sun’s path from east to west, producing 25% more power than fixed panels.
“By all indications, climate change is going to challenge our mission of providing reliable water to Southern California. Longer droughts, higher temperatures and decreased snowpack await us in the years and decades to come. So it only makes sense that Metropolitan would want to be part of the climate solution,” says Metropolitan General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger.
“Metropolitan doesn’t have much in the way of direct emissions, so to reduce our carbon footprint, we needed to look at our energy use. And while we benefit greatly from hydropower generated at our facilities, we also want to take advantage of solar opportunities,” he adds.
This is just the latest step in Metropolitan’s move toward solar. The agency already has a 1 MW solar plant at its Robert A. Skinner Water Treatment Plant in southwest Riverside County and a smaller solar installation at the Diamond Valley Lake Visitor Center in Hemet. The district expects to launch a fourth solar next year at its Joseph Jensen Water Treatment Plant in Granada Hills.
Metropolitan says that the solar facilities not only cut carbon emissions, but also help reduce the district’s energy costs. The $10.5 million solar plant in La Verne is expected to last 30 years and will pay for itself long before that due to the cost savings realized by replacing costly electricity purchased on the retail market with self-produced energy, according to the district. Metropolitan notes it also will receive about $1 million in rebates from the California Solar Initiative Program for the plant.
“This is a smart investment. The retail electricity market is getting less predictable due to global resource competition and increased regulation of greenhouse gas emissions,” says Debra C. Man, Metropolitan’s assistant general manager and chief operating officer. “It makes sense for us to avoid that volatility by investing in a facility that will ultimately pay for itself. The solar plant will operate during peak-demand hours, when electricity costs are highest.”
Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s Twitter account