Valdosta to add solar power to both wastewater treatment plants 2016-10-06

Valdosta just leapfrogged the rest of the state in solar power for wastewater treatment plants. Council Tim Carroll expanded beyond the laconic summary of Thursday’s Valdosta City Council action, which itself expanded on a July action. Turns out Valdosta is one of several cities across Georgia with solar power for their wastewater treatment facilities, and maybe not the largest nor the earliest, but apparently the earliest large one. The main point is clear from all of them: solar power for wastewater plants pays for itself in only a few years and can save millions of dollars over decades.

Summary of Actions, Regular Meeting, Valdosta City Council, Thursday October 6th 2016,

  1. Bids, Contracts, Agreements and Expenditures
    1. Consideration of a request to approve Agreements with Hannah Solar for a Solar Project at both Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant sites on Wetherington Lane.
      — Approved (4-0)

Via email yesterday, Council Carroll added that it’s not just at the old and new WWTP sites on Wetherington Lane:

…the solar array project at both the Mudcreek and Withlachoochee Plants were approved by council on Thursday night. 50kW project at Mudcreek and a total of 150kW at the Withlachoochee plant. Part of the power these solar panels will generate will go directly towards the power needs of the plant itself.

John Stephen, VDT, 8 October 2016, City expands use of solar energy,

In July, Valdosta City Council approved a contract with Hannah Solar to install solar panels at the city’s Mud Creek Water Treatment Plant. In exchange for building and maintaining the panels free of charge, Hannah Solar is allowed to build a separate solar array for its use without having to pay the city to lease the land.

Now, in a similar agreement, Hannah Solar will build two more solar arrays at the WWTPs, which will be used to power plant operations and to provide Hannah Solar with energy to sell to Georgia Power.

Summary of Actions, Regular Meeting, Valdosta City Council, Thursday July 7th 2016,

  1. Bids, Contracts, Agreements and Expenditures
    1. Consideration of a request to approve an Agreement with Hannah Solar for a Solar Project at the Mud Creek Water Treatment Plant.
      — Approved (6-0)

On the telephone with Tim Carroll, I pointed out that Darien, Georgia already put solar panels at its wastewater treatment plant five years ago.

He included his answer in the rest of his email:

It will be the first large scale WWTP solar power project in the state. Based on estimates, these solar panels will save the city over $1M in power costs over the next 30 years.

Pretty cool I think!

Tim Carroll
Councilman District 5
City of Valdosta
229.244.0928 w
229.671.1392 h

I suppose it depends on your definition of big. GEFA, blog, 8 April 2016, Chatsworth Water Works Commission installs solar panels,

The Chatsworth Water Works Commission (CWWC) is committed to providing the best water and wastewater services at the lowest possible rates for its customers. Between the CWWC’s main office and the Judson Vick Wastewater Treatment Plant, was a 5-acre, untouched, overgrown field. The CWWC decided that using the field for solar power would be an efficient way of serving their customers. Given its hours of operation coincide with the peak hours for solar power generation and the potential for long-term savings, the CWWC decided to turn the empty field into a 5-acre array of solar panels.

The CWWC received a Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA) loan of $3 million at 1.3 percent interest and $300,000 in principal forgiveness to finance a 1 megawatt (MW) solar photovoltaic farm. Since the project conserved energy, CWCC also received a 1 percent interest rate reduction (reduced from the standard rate of 2.03 percent). This was the first solar project associated with a water or wastewater treatment plant financed by GEFA in the state.

Once ground broke on the project, it only took six weeks for the solar panels to start producing power. The solar array is capable of generating up 1 MW hour of electricity a day, enough to run the utility’s main office and the wastewater treatment plant. The solar panels produce more electricity than the utility needs and the surplus is sold to Georgia Power. The projected total savings over the next 25 years are approximately $5.5 to $6 million.

The solar project has benefitted the CWWC’s operations, and set an example for other water and sewer utilities to follow. With a little help from the sun, utilities can better manage rising energy costs to keep rates as low as possible for their customers.

However, Council Carroll is still not wrong, because Valdosta’s Mud Creek WWTP already had more than a megawatt of solar power installed three years ago.

But there’s more. Georgia Power, Dalton Solar Plant, 13 May 2016, Third Phase of Dalton Solar Plant Now Online,

Leaders from Georgia Power, Southern Wholesale Energy, United Renewable Energy, LLC and Dalton Utilities gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the latest expansion of the Dalton Solar Plant in Dalton, Ga. With more than seven megawatts (MW) of new generation capacity, this expansion adds to the approximately 700 kilowatts from two previous phases, which came online in 2011 and 2012, respectively.

“Georgia’s status as a national solar leader, as well as the ability to develop projects like this in communities across the state, is thanks to continued collaboration by utilities, government and solar developers,” said Murry Weaver, Northwest Region Vice President for Georgia Power at the event. “We’re proud to be able to expand our partnership with Dalton Utilities so that they may serve their customers’ energy needs with new solar generation produced right here in Dalton.”

Georgia Power leases property for the solar facility from Dalton Utilities, and Dalton Utilities purchases 100 percent of the output from the solar plant under a 25-year wholesale power purchase agreement with Georgia Power. Dalton Utilities will maintain all of the renewable energy credits associated with this transaction. Dalton Utilities provides potable water, electric, natural gas, wastewater, stormwater and telecommunications services to customers in Dalton and surrounding counties.

So seven megawatts is much bigger than one megawatt. Dalton’s solar project is not strictly for wastewater treatment, so that’s different. On the other hand, why should solar power be limited to wastewater?

And the bottom line is the same with all these projects: solar power for municipal utilities pays for itself in a few years and saves millions over decades.


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