How much can you save using solar panels to clean dirty water? A lot, says Chowchilla

The Chowchilla Civic Center on Tuesday, July 14, 2015, is where the City Council meets.
The Chowchilla Civic Center on Tuesday, July 14, 2015, is where the City Council meets.

Chowchilla plans to clean its dirty water with help from the sun, which leaders say will save some money during the next three decades.

The Chowchilla City Council sold bonds to finance an energy efficiency program meant to save about $28 million dollars, according to a news release.

The plan is to shift 80 percent of the wastewater plant’s power supply from Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to more than 2,100 solar panels, as well as to use solar to power city buildings and wells, leaders said.

The savings are guaranteed, according to a news release. Fresno-based Johnson Controls Inc. is partnering in the project, and would pick up the tab if savings goals are not met by the panels, according to city leaders.

Electricity costs continue to climb, but annual bond payments stay the same, according to City Administrator Brian Haddix. “As the difference between the two widens, the city realizes increasing savings from owning its own solar panels,” he said in a news release.

The city also used Clean Renewable Energy Bonds, a federal program for energy savings projects that reduces interest costs by 50 percent.

The savings will be aimed at a 2.5 million-gallon water storage tank and an upgrade to the city’s drinking water system, including installing new wells, leaders said. Installing booster pumps should also improve water pressure throughout Chowchilla.

The city also has plans to enhance external lighting at police and fire stations, and City Hall; install security cameras around the city; convert streetlights over to energy-efficient systems; and install drinking water meters, among other plans.

The city of Chowchilla is looking for ways to drive its costs down while improving infrastructure, according to Mayor Mary “Trinket” Gaumnitz.

“By being creative in using solar power to run our wastewater plant, and by employing energy-efficient equipment, we can modernize our city services without placing the burden on the backs of taxpayers,” she said in a statement.

Thaddeus Miller: 209-385-2453, @thaddeusmiller