water-borne solar

These Water Treatment Plants Won't Go to Waste With Sun Power

Increasingly, solar and water mix nicely.

Here in the sun-rich San Joaquin Valley, cities are looking at solar as a way to cut power bills at energy-sucking wastewater treatment plants. Tulare and Madera have them, as does Parlier, while officials in Atwater are on tap, so to speak. It would be the city's biggest-ever endeavor, but one that could save millions of dollars in years to come.

We've written about the proliferation of solar in and around water sources. Check out this blog from May.

It makes sense. Water is heavy, and wastewater plants, which are among the largest energy users in most cities, have lots of space atop and near their water tanks. In fact, Greentech solar asks in this article, "Are wastewater plants the new frontier for muni solar?"

(And maybe not just for solar. Here's a story about Bill and Melinda Gates financing technology that would convert converting organic waste sludge into biodiesel and methane.)

Maybe wastewater plants are just ONE frontier for the world's most renewable resource. Rooftop solar projects could abound across the country. Research into solar roads is under way, and some places are installing solar-powered street lights. Read about streetlight projects in Missouri and Florida here and here.

What does all this mean for the San Joaquin Valley? The possibilities are eye popping. The Valley's $20 billion agriculture industry is starting to embrace renewable energy, including solar.
The Valley already has dozens of proposed solar projects waiting in the wings, and cash-strapped cities and businesses are looking for ways to slash their power bills, especially during the my-shoes-are-melting-into-the-pavement summer heat extremes.

Meanwhile, solar energy prices are dropping, and coming close to parity. In a few years, the sun could be shining even brighter on the Valley's solar industry.

(Image of Tulare's wastewater treatment plant)

Solar and Water: A Powerful Combination

Many people equate solar power with rooftops, and that's true. More property owners - commercial and residential - are installing solar panels on their roofs to cut power bills and carbon footprint. Check out what Toys 'R' Us is doing in New Jersey, and what officials in Los Angeles want to do.

But solar energy is popping up all over the place. In backpacks. With the military in Afghanistan. On parking structures and as window coverings. And, increasingly, on or around water.

Solar is appearing at wastewater treatment plants, vineyard irrigation ponds and in settling ponds at gravel mines. There is even the possibility of solar panels on oceans. This New York Times piece, which I read in the San Jose Mercury-News, features wineries in Northern California that moored solar panels in ponds to help produce power.

Vineyard real estate is pricey, and this is a way to conserve precious land. Larry Maguire, chief executive of Far Niente Winery, put it this way in the story: "Vineyard land in this part of the Napa Valley runs somewhere between $200,000 and $300,000 per acre. . . We wanted to go solar, but we didn't want to pull out any vines."

Solar-energy systems also are gaining a stronger following here in the San Joaquin Valley, where power bills run high in the summer, and agriculture-related companies use lots of power and water.

The cities of Tulare and Madera use solar at their wastewater plants, which helps reduce energy costs. Learn more about those projects here and here. This Sign on San Diego story has more on how solar works at such plants.

The San Joaquin Valley has some of the most resourceful and efficient farmers in the World. Look for more water-related solar projects; it is a powerful combination.

Photo of solar array at Far Niente Winery by winebusiness.com.