Metropolitan Water District dedicates 1-MW solar power plant at water treatment facility

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The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California has dedicated a 1-MW photovoltaic power station at the Robert A. Skinner Water Treatment Plant in Riverside County. The 10-acre solar field, which was built by SunPower, will generate about 2.4 million KW-hours of electricity, which will be equivalent to about 25% of the annual power needs of the facility.

The PV system is comprised of 4620 230-W SunPower monocrystalline-silicon-based panels mounted 10 at a time on 462 of the solar company’s T20 single-axis trackers, which will track the sun over the course of the day from east to west, according to MWD spokesman Bob Muir. The four quadrants of the field are each tied to one of four SMA 250-KW inverters installed for the project.

Muir told PV Tech that preliminary design work on the project began in June 2007, with the final design coming in November of that year. SunPower was awarded the contract in July 2008 and broke ground on the installation in January 2009. The facility started generating power this month, with Southern California Edison (SCE) officially accepting the system on May 14.  

Debra Man, MWD assistant general manager and chief operating officer, said generating solar power at the Skinner plant is part of a strategic power plan to be considered by its board this summer. The plan envisions the district having 10 MW of solar installed throughout its six-county service area over the next five years.

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“The proposed plan will outline a number of energy-saving strategies at our facilities, while laying out immediate, short-term, intermediate, and long-term goals,” she said. “The plan’s goal will be to maximize carbon reduction at all our distribution facilities and develop renewable energy to support deliveries on the Colorado River Aqueduct.”

Man noted the $10 million solar facility is expected to pay for itself in six to eight years or sooner, since the solar plant would operate during peak demand periods when electricity costs are the highest. MWD will receive more than $5 million in rebates from SCE during the first five years of operation. 

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