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Kyocera Solar, Inc. recently announced that its 1.135-megawatt (MW) solar array at the Alvarado Water Treatment Facility in San Diego, Calif., has consistently exceeded performance expectations since it began operating in February 2007, as documented by power generation data. “The 6128 Kyocera solar modules at the Alvarado Water Treatment Facility have performed at 115% of expected output since their installation,” said John Helminski, Emerging and Renewable Technology Program Manager for the City of San Diego. “Initially, we anticipated 1.6 million kilowatt hours (kWh) annually, but it’s been producing just over 1.85 million.”
The Alvarado facility will increase its water treatment capacity by 67% next year, from 120 million gallons per day to 200 million. To alleviate the cost of the expansion, the City of San Diego became one of the first in the nation to adopt a power purchase agreement. Also known as a PPA, this contract between an electricity producer and a host site owner helps curb energy costs in a sustainable manner.
The PPA allows the Alvarado Water Treatment Plant to host (without owning) the Kyocera solar modules. The facility’s PPA partner owns, operates and maintains the entire system. For a period of 20 years, the City of San Diego has agreed to purchase every kilowatt hour that the system produces, at a fixed price with an annual cost escalation of just 1%. That’s much lower than the expected annual increase in utility rates.
“Under our PPA, solar electricity is already costing us less per kilowatt hour than utility power,” said Helminski. “Additionally, utility rates typically rise by at least 2.5% each year, which promises further savings.” Taking a conservative approach and compounding the difference between 2.5% and 1% annual rate increases, the city estimates savings of about $325,000 during the course of its 20-year PPA. If rates rise an average of 4% per year, the savings will be about $650,000.
The solar installation occupies previously unused space atop the concrete roofs of three water storage reservoirs. Its annual power output represents the energy equivalent of about 2640 barrels of oil, which is enough to offset about 580 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year-an impact comparable to about 400 acres of green forest.
“From our perspective, the system has performed flawlessly and beyond our expectations,” said Helminski. “It’s the City of San Diego’s goal to be both environmentally sensitive and to ensure that our projects make economic sense. This installation helps us to achieve both goals.”
For additional information, visit www.kyocerasolar.com.