OCEANSIDE: City solar energy project restarted

June 8, 2012 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

A stalled solar energy project at an Oceanside sewage treatment plant is being restarted with a goal of going on line by December.

The plan is to build a solar energy farm on 10 acres of city land adjacent to the San Luis Rey Wastewater Reclamation plant at 3950 N. River Road.

“It’s a money saver,” city Water Utilities director Cari Dale said Thursday.

Over the 20-year life of the revised project, the city estimates it will save roughly $1.65 million —- or about $82,569 annually —- on the electric bill for the water treatment plant, Dale said.

The project was put on hold late last year after San Diego Gas Electric Co. requested a rate increase that included a provision that would have substantially raised the cost of solar energy installations.

In January, a member of the California Public Utilities Commission rejected that provision, which made the water treatment plant project economically feasible again.

Another problem cropped up when Maryland-based SunEdison —- the original contractor chosen for the job in August 2010 —- was unable to get the project moving.

In February, city officials issued a call for other companies to come in and take it over.

Of the three companies that responded, the city picked Solar Star Oceanside LLC of Richmond.

At the same time, the city began working on environmental reports needed for the project, Dale said.

The City Council this week approved a contract with Solar Star.

“We’ve been working on getting solar here. I’m very, very glad this is moving forward,” Councilwoman Esther Sanchez said.

The city Utilities Commission endorsed the project unanimously, Vice Chairman Jimmy Knott told the council.

“It takes a very important step toward self-sustainment in the (Water Utilities) department,” Knott said.

But Councilman Jack Feller expressed some skepticism about the projected savings.

“I don’t have any great faith that solar is the way to go,” Feller said.

The savings will come by using electricity generated by the solar panels to replace electricity the city would otherwise have to buy from SDGE, Dale said.

In addition to the direct savings from generating its own electricity, Dale said the city will get renewable energy credits for displacing pollution that would come from traditional methods of generating electricity.

At some point, those credits can be sold or traded to private companies who need to offset emissions caused by their projects, Dale said.

“It’s a sort of money,” Dale said.

The solar energy system will offset the equivalent of greenhouse gas emissions from 256 passenger cars, said Jason Daffon, acting Water Utilities Division manager.

The project is projected to generate about 1 megawatt of electricity, enough to provide 25 percent to 30 percent of the treatment plant’s needs, Daffon said.

The solar electric panels will be built on raised platforms about 7 feet tall and take up about 8 acres of the 10-acre site with room to expand, he said.

“It’s a nice step for the city to reduce our costs and also reduce some of our carbon footprint out there at the facility,” Daffon said.

Comments are closed.