Build a solar power plant to help run a water treatment plant!

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RMU Announces Solar Plant Completion

Rochelle Municipal Utilities, in Rochelle, Illinois, has. started operation of a large Photovoltaic Solar Plant providing power to their water treatment facility. This is a great example of a project that should be done in more places.

In the Spring of 2014, RMU was awarded a $500,000 grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation to fund construction of the Solar Plant. ICECF provides grants for up to $2/watt or 60% of the system and its installation costs, whichever is less. As a result of the competitive bidding process, Eagle Point Solar was awarded the project.

“Rochelle’s 312 kW Solar Photovoltaic plant is one of the larger Public Power Utility owned plants in Illinois. This plant will provide renewable energy to the water treatment plant” stated Business & Financial Analyst Dan Westin. “Treatment plants require a lot of energy to make clean water. Rochelle will continue to explore financially sound projects in the area of renewable energy.”

As a result of this project, Rochelle Municipal Utilities has been selected as a recipient of this year’s Northern Illinois Renewable Energy Summit & Expo’s “Leadership by Example” award.

You can view the plant’s output real time here.

The water treatment plant has a peak energy demand of about 420 kW and the PV system can cover over half of that. During summer months, when the Sun’s energy is maximally available, the sun will provide about 45% of the plant’s energy requirements. It helps that the plant operates mainly during daylight hours, so this is a good fit for a solar installation.

According to Dan Westin, of Rochelle Municipal Utilities, “the unique part of Rochelle is that as a Muni owned utility it can include the grid capacity cost savings in the business case as well the solar energy credits marketed in the Pennsylvania market. The payback is less than five years that way. So 15 years of free solar energy. The cost of producing clean water goes down.”

Dan also told me that there are similar projects in Galena and Rockford Illinois.

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8 thoughts on “Build a solar power plant to help run a water treatment plant!

  1. I will not attempt to endorse this project. But it is obvious that it is both sustainable and productive. It may have been allowed to happen because politics and sales opportunities appear to have been removed from this power initiative.

    When the new generation of solar arrays, provide more efficiency – the effectiveness will obviously increase. Our children should see the benefits. I sincerely hope that the UK start to pick up on this – but so far we seem bent in employing the Japanese to build more reactors on our soil

  2. A $2/watt potential subsidy cap? Well planned and executed utility scale PV can be built for $2watt or less. So either (a) someone else is paying and they get the plant almost for free, or someone else is paying, and because of the subsidy they didn’t much object to the fact that they were charged too much.

    Now, in general I love PV on commercial endeavours, anything that reduces the demand on the powersystem is a plus. Doing it right however requires that we do it in such a way that the (PV industry) becomes more efficient.

    Germany has dome a great job in this respect, even residential rooftops there come in at low cost (less than half what US residents pay). This probably was a result of the subsidy being a FIT (paying a premium price for the generated power), rather than as on offset on the system cost.

  3. It is being done here:

    The John J. Carroll Water Treatment Plant
    Massachusetts Water Resources Authority

    Since July 2005, metropolitan Boston’s water supply has been treated at the John J. Carroll Water Treatment Plant (CWTP) in Marlborough, Massachusetts. …

    …A 500 kW photovoltaic array also provides the plant with solar electricity to help defray costs.

    http://www.mwra.com/04water/html/carrollwtp.html

    and here:

    The Deer Island Sewage Treatment Plant
    Massachusetts Water Resources Authority

    http://www.mwra.com/05energy/2011/102611-renewableslides/slides.html

  4. Shoulda got a grant to implement a nuclear plant to power the facility…

    They could use the radioactive waste to kill any microorganisms in the water, used the electricity to run the plant, and used the cooling loops to distill pure water to sell as an additional product.

    Missed opportunity! ;^)

  5. “Doing it right however requires that we do it in such a way that the (PV industry) becomes more efficient.”

    No, it doesn’t. Yes, increased efficiency is a good goal, but you are demanding perfection at the expense of the good, and frankly, we should be willing to take a fair amount of not even that good among the many projects that should be developed.

    Hey, Deer Island! The Deer Island Sewage Treatment Plant was my very first archaeology project in Boston!

    Brainstorms, that’s a great idea. The city’s water supply can be the coolant .

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  7. >peak energy demand of about 420 kW and the PV system can cover over half. when the Sun’s energy is maximally available, will provide about 45% of the plant’s energy requirements. It helps that the plant operates mainly during daylight hours,

    Trying to reconcile these numbers, can cover over half of peak demand, but less than half at max supply.

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