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Greener days ahead for Manteca
Energy savings, cost reductions goal of plan
The wastewater treatment plant could eventually be a major source of landscaping water for Manteca as well as provide fuel to create electricity. Treated wastewater is already used to grow corn for dairy silage at the treatment plant. - photo by HIME ROMERO
It is high noon and you’re enjoying a picnic beneath a shade structure at Woodward Park.

On top of that shelter is a bank of solar photovoltaic cells that helps power a well on the west side of the park that supplies potable water to nearby homes.

A Manteca refuse truck that has a diesel-hybrid engine pulls into the parking lot to dump a trash bin.

When evening comes, security lights come on near the 1,000-seat amphitheater that are solar powered. The street lights along the street are powered by energy savings LED bulbs.

As early morning comes, recycled water flowing from purple pipes connecting to the wastewater treatment plant is used to irrigate the grass.

All of that could happen in the not-to-distance future as Manteca starts going green to save green.

The Manteca City Council is pursuing an alternative energy plan that could ultimately reduce annual power costs by $1.3 million a year. The city also has started exploring recycling municipal wastewater to reduce the use of expensive treated water and avoid incurring future costs anticipated with ever changing state rules for returningtreated wastewater into the river.

Also on the way are the city’s first three solar street lights that will serve as security lights for the BMX park at Spreckels Recreation Park located at Moffat Boulevard and Spreckels Avenue.

Manteca’s energy plan includes:

•converting Manteca’s street lights over to LED bulbs using federal  “green” stimulus funds to reduce power costs by $150,000 a year and ease the pressure on the distressed general fund.

•purchasing diesel-hybrid refuse trucks.

•start placing solar photovoltaic cells on municipal buildings, wastewater treatment plant, and on park shade structures.

•curtailing energy use at peak periods to save enough to power 100 homes.

•work with South San Joaquin Irrigation District to implement an energy savings program for Manteca businesses and homes.

•consider the possibility of a solar farm at the wastewater treatment plant.

•explore the potential of a bio-mass cogeneration plant using wastewater treatment plant bio-solids and green waste from Manteca and nearby cities.

The biggest user of energy – the wastewater treatment plant – consumes almost $1.2 million worth of electricity a year. It could cost between $2 million and $6 million in capital outlay to put in a bio gas digester to carry the load at the wastewater treatment plant. That would reflect a kilowatt per hour cost of 3.44 cents to 7.32 cents. That compares to the current PG&E charge of 12.39 cents.

Consultants determined the city could save $500,000 a year which means even if it cost as much as $6 million, the city would recoup its investment in 12 years. That, however, does not take into account PG&E rate hikes that have been happening at a frequency of two to three years. That means the payback realistically will be shorter.

The aggregate cost of city power use excluding the wastewater treatment plant, traffic lights, and street lights is $1.2 million. Various solar photovoltaic installations would require $13.6 million to replicate the PG&E load. Grants that are available could reduce the cost to Manteca to $6.8 million which would reflect a 16-year payback. However, that assumes no PG&E rate increases for 16 years so the payback is conservative and should actually end up being shorter.

Burning garbage could generate electricity cost 7 to 9 cents per kilowatt but would require partnering with other agencies in the county to generate enough green waste to make it work. It would also help the city avoid landfill costs as it is charged per ton to bury garbage. It would also greatly reduce the potential need to truck garbage out of state in the coming years when landfill capacity is exhausted in California. Right now, garbage is being buried at a site on Austin Road between French Camp and Arch roads.