Atwater to consider more solar energy deals

mnorth@mercedsunstar.comDecember 11, 2012 

— The city is seeing monetary gains from a large solar energy array it completed in October, and the push for more solar energy isn't over.

City officials plan on expanding their use of the clean energy to several other locations in addition to the 1.1-megawatt site at the waste-water treatment plant.

Specific sites, including City Hall, the Atwater Community Center and various wells, have been identified as some of the city's highest energy consumers, said Public Works Director Dave Church.

By setting up solar panels at those locations, the city could save about $13.5 million over 30 years, according to a recent proposal given to the city by Conergy, a Denver-based solar energy company.

Atwater signed a letter of intent in September with Conergy. The City Council will consider entering into an agreement with the company at a meeting Jan. 14.

Councilman Jeff Rivero, who's on the Atwater Solar Advisory Committee, said the city will save about $84,000 by the end of the first year if the project goes through.

"It's penciling out to save the city a vast amount of money," he said.

Like the solar array at the waste-water treatment plant, the contract between Atwater and the solar company would be an agreement to purchase power. Atwater would provide city land for solar panels to be set up by the company, which would then sell the power. Atwater would get a share of the power at a reduced cost.

The arrangement between Atwater and Siemens Industry at the waste-water site is saving the city about $5,000 a month, according to city officials.

The newly proposed project would produce just under 1 megawatt, Rivero said, noting that the project is a good way for the city to get immediate savings from its energy bills.

"If you're going to use energy, why not use the cleanest you can get?" he said.

Church agreed that the city is making a good move by utilizing solar options.

"It's clean energy," he said. "It's the right thing to do."

There would be no risks to the city and no out-of-pocket costs in the agreement, Church said.

The city will publish a public notice before the Jan. 14 meeting, when the project might be approved.

Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or mnorth@mercedsunstar.com.

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