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Solar project at Galt plant on schedule

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Posted: Thursday, September 8, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 5:52 am, Thu Sep 8, 2011.

Progress continues to move along for the city of Galt as the city’s Wastewater Treatment Plant is prepped for the installation of more than 3,000 solar panels to generate the plant’s electricty.

The solar panels are being put in after Cal Valley Solar signed a contract with the city in August. The solar panels, which are set to be fully installed by the end of the year, will provide the 1.0 megawatt of power needed to operate the new facility.

The solar power system will be made up of high efficiency solar panels mounted on a tracking system which will be placed in a settling pond at the treatment plant.

The tracking system, which is monitored by a computer system, will then rotate the panels so they literally follow the sun during the day, from sun-up to sundown.

This high-tech solar energy system will allow more power to be captured by the plant, roughly 30 percent more than the average solar panels produced in areas like China, Cal Valley Solar spokesperson Terry Peterson said.

Any power that is not used by the plant will be redirected back to the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, with the city receiving a credit.

“It’s kind of a one-two punch,” he said. “Most panels only generate about 5.1 hours of solar energy a day. This process acquires not only more power; the city also can save money for what it doesn’t use.”

This process could ultimately save the city roughly $1.3 million over the next 20 years, according to Sandra Kiriu, Galt’s principal planner.

Kiriu said the city had been looking to try and implement a solar power energy saving program a few years ago, but “nothing really penciled out financially.”

Buildings including Galt’s City Hall and the Parks and Recreation Department were considered for potential solar power panel candidates.

But then the city learned of something called power purchase agreements.

The agreements are contracts between two parties, one who generates electricity for the purpose of sale (the seller) and one who is looking to purchase electricity (the buyer).

Through this agreement, the city was able to partner with a company called SunPower, which is based in Richmond, Calif.

Through the contract with SunPower and Cal Valley Solar, the city will not only help reduce its carbon footprint and be more of a “green” city, it will also be saving Galt residents money.

“Our main objective with this is to stabilize rates for rate payers in Galt,” she said. “As electricity rates go up we don’t want to have to keep raising sewage rates.”

Contact reporter Katie Nelson at katien@lodinews.com.

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