Calif. Water Agency Captures Solar Rays to Reduce Energy Costs

April 26, 2005

Yesterday in Palm Springs, Calif., Desert Water Agency took a huge step towards reducing its long-term operating costs by switching on its new $2.5 million, 350 kilowatt (DC), solar energy plant.

The huge ground-mounted solar electric system, the Coachella Valley’s largest photovoltaic installation, was designed and manufactured by Shell Solar Industries in Camarillo, California, and installed by a Shell Solar channel partner, SOCAL Solar Energy Systems, Inc., based in Mission Viejo, Calif.

Unique to the solar industry, this project utilized a new form of Shell Solar’s assembly methods. Shell Solar utilized an innovative form of assembly methods known as “panelization.” Rather than connecting individual modules at the installation site, Shell Solar factor-assembled individual solar modules into a very large “panel” at their Camarillo facility.

Assembling modules into a panel in a factory environment achieves greater quality control and economic efficiencies. Panelization also allows for faster, and lower installation costs with virtually no waste from shipping materials

Desert Water Agency’s project costs were significantly reduced through a $1.0 million rebate from Southern California Edison (SCE), administered through the Self-Generation Incentive Program.

The SCE Self-Generation Incentive Program is an initiative authorized by the California State Energy Commission to encourage the installation of new low or zero-emission, self-generation units. It is designed to help customers and the state manage peak electrical demand while addressing air-quality concerns.

“Sunny Palm Springs is one of the world’s ideal locations for a solar energy plant of this magnitude,” said Desert Water Agency Board President Ron Starrs. “This investment in renewable energy benefits our ratepayers and the environment. It also makes the statement that utility companies should demonstrate leadership in conserving natural resources.”

The football-field size installation is located on the eastern side of Desert Water’s operations center. More than 2,000 Shell PowerMaxä Ultra solar run for hundreds of feet through the yard. Each solar module delivers 35 volts and 175 watts each, for predicted energy performance of 662,000 kilowatt hours per year, virtually eliminating the agency’s electrical bills.

The solar installation will pay for itself by 2020, saving more than $70,000 annually at today’s rates, according to Desert Water Agency General Manager Dave Luker.

“One of the agency’s biggest operating expenses is for electricity. “It takes a significant amount of energy to operate our air-conditioned headquarters and it takes energy to pump water from the groundwater aquifer. With worldwide energy shortages, costs are only going to escalate. This installation is a valuable tool for controlling agency operating costs,” said Luker.

Desert Water Agency serves a 325-square mile area of the Eastern Coachella, including all of Palm Springs, parts of Cathedral City and some outlying areas of Riverside County.

Source: Shell Solar Industries