Metropolitan advances solar power generation to reduce carbon footprint, help treat water

June 14, 2007
Metropolitan Water District is looking toward the sun to help generate the power needed to treat water -- one of several options the agency is exploring to reduce its carbon footprint. "This demonstrates how serious we are about addressing our carbon footprint," said Metropolitan Chairman Timothy F. Brick, after MWD's Board of Directors Tuesday authorized design work on a solar-powered generation plant at the district's Robert A. Skinner Water Treatment Plant near Temecula in southwest...

• Installation will reduce carbon emissions by 2.5 million pounds annually, while cutting district's greenhouse gas emissions, power costs

LOS ANGELES, CA, June 13, 2007 -- Metropolitan Water District is looking toward the sun to help generate the power needed to treat water -- one of several options the agency is exploring to reduce its carbon footprint.

"This demonstrates how serious we are about addressing our carbon footprint," said Metropolitan Chairman Timothy F. Brick, after MWD's Board of Directors Tuesday authorized design work on a solar-powered generation plant at the district's Robert A. Skinner Water Treatment Plant near Temecula in southwest Riverside County.

"This is the first of a series of actions on numerous fronts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from our operations and lessen the impacts to state and regional water supplies," Brick said.

Potential actions include investigating installation of wind power generating plants along Metropolitan's 242-mile-long Colorado River Aqueduct, which passes through wind farms near Palm Springs; increasing the district's hydroelectric generating capacity beyond the MWD's existing 16 plants; and expanding its number of hybrid fleet vehicles.

Metropolitan General Manager Jeff Kightlinger said the action is an initial step toward possibly installing solar power generating facilities at all five MWD water treatment plants.

"In addition to its environmental benefits, solar will help reduce power costs as our plants are retrofitted to treat water with ozone gas," Kightlinger said. "Ozone provides greater water quality benefits, but also requires substantially more electric power. Solar power will help us cut those costs."

Action at Tuesday's board meeting authorized $625,000 for design work on a six-acre solar collection field at the Skinner plant that would generate up to 2 million kilowatt-hours of electricity a year. In 2006, the plant consumed more than 11.1 million kWh of electricity, at a cost of nearly $1.4 million.

Plans call for the facility, costing an estimated $9 million, to employ a tracking system that allows the panels to follow the sun's path from east to west and produce 25 percent more power than fixed panels.

"Once the solar generators are installed and operational at the Skinner plant, Metropolitan would indirectly reduce carbon emissions by nearly 2.5 million pounds annually," said Gordon Johnson, the district's chief engineer. "In addition, we expect to realize up to $5 million in rebate incentives from the California Public Utilities Commission over the first five years."

Johnson said the solar-generating facility is expected to pay for itself in eight to 10 years or sooner, as the solar generation facility would operate during peak demand periods when electricity costs are the highest.

Metropolitan's board action is the first under the district's Energy Management Program. Initiated last fall, the program looks to aggressively pursue viable opportunities to develop renewable energy projects and seek available state and federal financial incentives.

Johnson said Metropolitan's program is consistent with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's California Solar Initiative and state legislation, which have established a statewide goal to create 3,000 megawatts of new, solar-powered electricity by 2017.

"Integrating solar-powered generating facilities into the region's water supply system is a logical way to combine the need for energy with long-term sustainability, which is Metropolitan's hallmark," said MWD board Vice Chair Marcie L. Edwards, who also serves as general manager of the Anaheim Public Utilities Department.

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is a cooperative of 26 cities and water agencies serving 18 million people in six counties. The district imports water from the Colorado River and Northern California to supplement local supplies, and helps its members to develop increased water conservation, recycling, storage and other resource-management programs.

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Also see:
-- "Metropolitan board approves up to $6.3 million for expanded campaign to promote conservation, educate public"

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