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Lathrop hopes to trim power costs by $1M

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POSTED October 25, 2013 9:38 p.m.

LATHROP – If all goes according to plan, the City of Lathrop will save upwards of $1 million over the course of the next 25 years.

With the backing of the Lathrop City Council the consultant hired by the City of Lathrop to conduct a study about the feasibility of adding solar panels at key locations around town. They will now start the competitive bid process searching for backers that are willing to cover the cost of construction to allow the city to lock in a relatively low cost-per-kilowatt-hour rate that they’ll be on the hook for.

And if recent trends are any example, the price of energy could rise even higher than what the conservative estimates that TerraVerde Renewable Partners outlined in their report.

The three council members that are in attendance at their meeting Monday night unanimous agreed to move forward with the process. Council members Martha Salcedo and Steve Dresser were absent.

“It just makes fiscal sense for the environment, and it’s also good for the environment,” Mayor Sonny Dhaliwal said. “It’s a good way to save the city money as the rates that we’re paying for PG&E continue to go up.

“And it gives us some flexibility to add solar panels in some other places in the future at sites where we use a lot of power.”

The contract even got the once-over by a local electricity expert that’s had his go-round with solar power for his own organization.

When TerraVerde visited the Lathrop City Council to outline how the process was going several months ago, South San Joaquin Irrigation District General Manager Jeff Shields – who is currently involved in a brutal battle with PG&E to lower utility rates in Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon – just happened to be in attendance and offered to look through the contract for the city before anything was inked.

The irrigation district created its own solar farm to help defray the costs associated with the surface water treatment plant that supplies local cities with an added influx of water. The City of Lathrop is involved with the project, and just sold some of its future rights that weren’t being used to The City of Tracy.

While original long-term savings estimates were expected to be much higher than $1 million over 25 years, the city’s biggest power drain – the wastewater treatment plant – was taken out of the equation after it was discovered that there wasn’t enough space to install all of the panels that would be needed to defray the costs.

The way that the current contract is structured, Dhaliwal said, will allow the city the option to install panels when or if land becomes available near the treatment plant.

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