Abandoned wastewater ponds near the city’s Wastewater Treatment Plant could soon be lined with solar panels, providing the City of Oakdale with substantial savings in its energy costs. This, after the city council approved an action Monday night, July 18 to explore a deal with Borrego Solar Systems of Oakland.
Since the beginning of the year, the city has been working with solar companies in an effort to install a photovoltaic solar panel array to save money on its future electrical bills.
After interviewing a selection of local solar companies, the city selected Borrego Solar, the nation’s second largest solar provider.
Borrego’s program allows public entities like the City of Oakdale to generate electricity in a remote location, which can then be converted to credits that can be used to offset energy charges at other locations within city boundaries. Under the proposal, the credits will be used for up to 50 city building/sight electrical meters.
Public Services Director Thom Clark said there were no out-of-pocket costs to the city. The agreement will guarantee an electrical rate per kilowatt hour for 20 to 25 years.
“This is huge, really huge,” Clark said during the presentation. “This could be in the millions for city savings.”
Clark said PG&E costs have risen about five percent per year over the past 15 years and with the agreement the city will be locked into a guaranteed electrical rate.
Under the proposal, Borrego Solar will engineer the project at no cost to the city. They will then install and maintain the solar farm to be constructed over the former wastewater ponds near Liberini Avenue.
Clark said as part of the process Borrego Solar will analyze the costs of installing, maintaining, and monitoring the solar array, as well as to identify any potential obstacles which must be overcome, such as outside agency approvals, to upgrade the PG&E infrastructure to handle the electrical generation load from the solar array.
During its study the city looked at various sites for the panels including the airport and former dumpsite at Valley View Park. CalRecycle rejected any piercing of the existing cell cover which would have been needed for the posts for the panels.
“CalRecycle requirements for dump sites can add major costs to a solar project, perhaps enough to make the project unfeasible,” Clark stated.
Clark added that the airport electrical grid would have to be upgraded to handle the load, making the abandoned ponds the preferred site for a solar farm.
Using wastewater pond sites as a preferred area is not something unique. The City of Lathrop recently installed panels at its wastewater plant on active ponds.
Ironically, the wastewater treatment plant, the city’s largest energy user, would not be eligible for the crediting.
“The wastewater treatment plant is on MID (Modesto Irrigation District) and is not affected by this,” Clark said. “The city did cut a sweet deal for eight-cent power with that one and is much lower than PG&E.”
Clark explained that the city’s charge through MID is only eight cents per kilowatt.
The council unanimously approved the Solar Farm measure.
In another agenda item, which brought some applause for the audience and council members, Clark announced a water and sewer line replacement-pavement reconstruction project for the worn out and battered North Second Avenue in front of the police department and council chambers.
The $634,195 project, awarded to Rolfe Construction, will be funded by gas tax and water and sewer capital replacement funds.