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Sewer going solar to cut PG&E bill
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The second largest single solar installation operated by a South County government agency could start reducing wastewater treatment power costs for Manteca ratepayers by 2018.

The Manteca City Council on Tuesday is considering seeking proposals to design and build a one megawatt solar farm project on the north side of the treatment plant along Yosemite Avenue. The council meets Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.

The $3.9 million solar farm will be paid with cash in the Sewer Maintenance and Operation Fund that ratepayers pay into.

It will supply roughly a third of the electricity needed to run the plant.  The city’s current PG&E bill for the treatment plant is $1.2 million plus on an annual basis.

Public Works staff has indicated the project has an eight year payback while the life expectancy is 25 years. That means for 17 years the city will be getting free electricity to cover a third of the treatment plant’s power costs.

Electricity is the biggest cost involved in running the wastewater treatment plant.

The 5.5 acre solar farm project going on the northwest of the treatment plant near where West Yosemite meets the UP railroad tracks by the ACE station along with the food waste conversion plant and an accompanying liquefied natural gas fueling station has obtained environmental clearance. 

The wastewater treatment plant account fund has sufficient reserves to pay for the solar farm without a rate increase. 

The largest single solar installation serving the South County is the 1.6-megawatt Robert Schulz Solar farm operated by the South San Joaquin Irrigation District to provide almost all the power needed for the surface water treatment plant that provides water to Manteca, Lathrop, and Tracy. It is helping to keep costs down for drinking water in the three cities.

The largest aggregate solar installation, though, are all the panels operated at various Manteca Unified School District sites.

The solar panels that double as car ports over parking lots at some campuses generated 27 percent of the district’s power needs in 2013-14 saving roughly $500,000.

The solar farm is one of three major green initiatives the city is now tackling.

Manteca is the only city in the Northern San Joaquin Valley moving to harness food waste and methane gas from the wastewater treatment plant that is now burned off with a flame to produce fuel to power the fleet of 20 plus municipal solid waste trucks.

The city has hired a contractor that is now installing purple pipe as part of the family entertainment zone project to provide recycled water to irrigate parks and landscaping south of the 120 Bypass within the next two to three years.