Water Authority Using Solar Panels to Power Up Savings for Ratepayers

August 25, 2011

Solar electric systems capable of producing approximately 2.6 million kilowatt-hours of electricity combined per year are now in operation at…

Solar electric systems capable of producing approximately 2.6 million kilowatt-hours of electricity combined per year are now in operation at three San Diego County Water Authority facilities.  Based on current rates, the systems are projected to save the region’s ratepayers $1.7 million in energy costs over the next 20 years and will enable the agency to meet a significant portion of its power needs with renewable energy.

“The installation of these systems is truly a great project because it reflects our commitment to manage costs for our ratepayers, while helping us reduce our greenhouse gas emissions,” Water Authority Board Chair Michael T. Hogan said at a dedication ceremony for the solar facilities today. 

The solar panels were installed at no cost to the Water Authority under a 20-year power purchase agreement with Borrego Solar Systems, Inc.  Under the agreement, the Water Authority will purchase the solar power from Borrego Solar’s financial arm, Greenlake Capital, at a set rate with a set escalator, in exchange for Borrego Solar covering the capital costs. Sun Edison will operate and maintain the systems. The Water Authority retains the right to purchase the systems after seven years.

In all, more than 7,500 solar panels are now in operation at the Water Authority’s Kearny Mesa headquarters, Fred A. Heilbron Operations Center in Escondido, and at the Twin Oaks Valley Water Treatment Plant north of San Marcos.  The Water Authority estimates that the systems will generate enough renewable energy to meet approximately 60 percent of the needs for the Kearny Mesa facility, 55 percent for the Escondido facility, and 25 percent for the water treatment plant.  A monitor in the lobby at the Kearny Mesa headquarters displays the power production for all three sites in real time.

Borrego Solar estimates that these systems will produce enough renewable energy over the next 30 years to prevent more than 100 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions. That’s the effect of planting more than 900 acres of trees or conserving nearly 145,000 barrels of oil. 

In addition, the Water Authority secured two Blink® electric vehicle (EV) charging stations at the Kearny Mesa headquarters. These Blink charging stations are owned and operated by ECOtality, project manager of the EV Project. The EV Project is the largest deployment of electric vehicles and charge infrastructure in the United States. With additional funding from Borrego Solar, the Blink charging stations will allow employees to charge their vehicles from solar power, at their own expense, creating no cost impact to the Water Authority.  

The solar and electric facilities complement other energy projects the Water Authority has completed or has under construction. 

The Rancho Peñasquitos hydro generation facility has been providing clean energy to the local power grid since December 2006.  The facility, which operates year-round, provides 25 million to 30 million kilowatt-hours of clean energy annually, enough electricity for approximately 5,000 San Diego households.

The Water Authority also is constructing a pumped storage project at Lake Hodges.  The project will generate up to 40 megawatts of hydroelectric power for the region by releasing water from Olivenhain Reservoir and passing it through turbines as it flows more than 700 feet downhill into Lake Hodges.  Power will be generated during times of peak demand, and water will be pumped back into Olivenhain Reservoir during off-peak hours when energy costs less.  The Water Authority estimates this project will be completed in 2012.

  • The San Diego County Water Authority sustains a $268 billion regional economy and the quality of life for 3.3 million residents through a multi-decade water supply diversification plan, major infrastructure investments and forward-thinking policies that promote fiscal and environmental responsibility. A public agency created in 1944, the Water Authority delivers wholesale water supplies to 23 retail water providers, including cities, special districts and a military base.

    Media Contact Information

    Grace Sevilla

    Phone: (619) 855-5135

    Email: GSevilla@sdcwa.org