The City of Manteca is doing what many people are doing these days to improve their bottom line — exploring ways to reduce their reliance on expensive PG&E electricity.
Energy consultants are now looking at every aspect of the city’s energy consumption from the electricity hog that is the wastewater treatment plant, downtown street lights and municipal heating/air conditioning systems to the antiquated golf course irrigation system to find ways that pencil out to save money on energy.
The move was driven by the City Council’s desire not to potentially tie up a huge chuck of land at the wastewater treatment plant for a megawatt plus solar farm to help offset power costs for sewage treatment that runs in excess of $1.5 million a year making it the biggest electrical user for the City of Manteca.
Instead of covering a number of acres of wastewater treatment plant land with solar panels that could be part of future family entertainment zone development, the consultants are looking to see how that megawatt that the city has secured tax credit financing for can be dispersed to other locations.
That could mean the placement of solar panels at multiple locations to aggregate a megawatt in electricity production.
The biggest area that is being explored was what the City first looked at over eight years ago to place solar panels — the 550-space parking lot of the Big League Dreams sports complex.
Thee panels would serve a dual purpose as they do at many Manteca Unified campuses. Besides generating power they serve as shade structures for school parking lots.
Also getting a look are the parking lots at the Civic Center, the roofs of large municipal structures such as buildings at the wastewater treatment plant, and other areas where there is sufficient room to place an effective number of solar panels.
City Manager Miranda Lutzow saw the rethinking of the solar farm concept as an opportunity to take a thorough look at citywide energy consumption to see if there are ways to reduce costs to the taxpayers through reduced electric bills.
A similar citywide undertaking almost 20 years ago led to a number of initiatives that — following an upfront investment — resulted in significant savings as the tears unfolded. The changes ranged from HVAC and switching the type of bulbs for everything from offices and street lights to traffic signals to purchasing street lights from PG&E.
This time around the consultant will also be looking at battery storage and see whether it pencils out by providing the ability to store excess generation during peak daylight hours to be used at night or at a later time.
Such a strategy would address the issue of excessive generation beyond what the city needs simply flowing into the PG&E grid without any benefit to the city’s bottom line.
The citywide energy use assessment and the solar panel initiative is the latest green initiative undertaken by the city driven by the desire to save money and reduce energy consumption.
Manteca was the first municipality years ago to add hybrid powered solid waste collection trucks to its fleet. The vehicles last longer, needed less frequent brake replacement, and used less fuel.
Those vehicles are now being replaced by trucks that can run on compressed liquefied gas produced from combining food waste with methane gas from the city’s wastewater treatment process.
That process is also virtually eliminating the need to burn methane gas off therefore reducing one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gases in the San Joaquin Valley.
The city’s wastewater treatment process — which is still a state-of-the-art endeavor — cleans water to just one step below being drinkable before it is returned to the river.
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