Tulare Leads The Way In Energy Innovation

Seven cheese and milk plants in the city of Tulare produce 7 million gallons of thick untreated wastewater per day.

That’s roughly equal to what Fresno’s 500,000 population (8 times larger than Tulare) creates daily. Obviously, Tulare’s wastewater treatment plant gets a heavy workout, which is reflected in the plant’s $2.5 million annual power bill.

So, city officials have embarked on a creative mission to reduce power costs wherever possible. They installed fluorescent street lights, replaced inefficient air conditioners and added reflective coating to cool roofs of public buildings.

And they’ve aggressively sought to cut costs at the wastewater plant. The city is installing a 1-megawatt solar photovoltaic power plant, financed in part through a federal energy-efficiency block grant, to help power the facility. The solar plant will save about $184,000 per year in energy costs, said Lewis R. Nelson, the city’s public works director.

In addition, a fourth biogas fuel cell is being built at the site. When finished in October, the cells, which are fed by the effluent from the milk dairy plants, will generate about $1 million worth of power annually.

Nelson said the city wants to do more with clean energy, and has plans for a waste-to-energy plant on 18 acres.

“In these budget times, it pays to spend a bit to save a lot over time,” he said.

The San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization is a nonprofit dedicated to improving our region's quality of life by increasing its production and use of clean and alternative energy. The SJVCEO works with cities and counties and public and private organizations to demonstrate the benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy throughout the eight-county region of the San Joaquin Valley.