Methane gas, a byproduct of the treatment process, was initially burned off as waste at the Regional Treatment Plant. In 1992, the gas was successfully utilized as a fuel source for large, engine-driven generators to create electricity.
Today, all of the electricity required to run the treatment plant is produced from a blend of methane and natural gas. Almost 9.5 million kilowatt hours of electricity are produced per year, enough to power 9,900 average homes for a month.
Cogeneration, or "co-gen," also means customer savings. Almost $300,000 a year is saved in deferred electrical purchases.
In 2010, MRWPCA, in coordination with the Monterey County Water Resources Agency, authorized a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with SolarCity Corporation for a 1.12 Megawatt solar panel project. There was no capital cost for either agency. SolarCity designed, constructed, and owns, operates, and maintains the facility, and sells power to MRWPCA.
The project is designed to provide approximately 90 percent of the power for the Salinas Valley Reclamation Project, which produces recycled water for 12,000 acres of farmland in northern Salinas Valley.
The solar project can generate 1,730,000 kilowatt hours of power annually, the same amount needed to power 225 homes. Excess solar power can be sold back to the power company. Over a 30-year period, the solar power system will prevent 60 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels. This is the same amount absorbed by 58,000 trees over their lifetime.
SolarCity serves over 500 communities in Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon and Texas, over 75 schools and universities, government agencies such as the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) and Department of Homeland Security, national landmarks such as San Francisco's Grace Cathedral, and well-known corporate clients, including Intel, British Motors and eBay.
(Photo courtesy of Solar City, San Mateo, California)
For more information about solar energy, please visit Solar Action Alliance.