Indian Wells Valley Water District (IWVWD) is celebrating the start of a far-reaching solar and energy efficiency project that is expected to yield $9.38 million in net savings over the program life. The District held a groundbreaking ceremony for the community last Friday, October 21st, to commemorate the beginning of the project and to recognize ongoing District efforts to conserve natural resources and contribute to a more sustainable future for California.
The new solar and energy efficiency program, which began construction last week, is being completed by the California-based company OpTerra Energy Services (OpTerra), a subsidiary of the global energy services corporation ENGIE. The program scope includes the installation of 2.08 MW of solar PV projects across five water well sites and the District Administrative Office. The solar systems at the water well sites are ground-mounted, fixed tilt solar PV systems to allow for optimal energy capturing. At the Administrative Office, OpTerra plans to construct a solar carport system which will generate energy while providing much-needed shade for cars parked in the hot desert sun.
To enhance building efficiency and occupant comfort inside of District facilities, OpTerra will also manage the installation of new LED lighting and the replacement of aging HVAC units at the District Office. In addition to improving temperature control and the quality of lighting in facilities, these upgrades contribute to hedging against rising energy costs from year to year.
When the District began to explore solar in March 2015, IWVWD leaders were interested in how they could make their District more energy efficient, while making an effort to cap rising rates for its customers and ensuring sustainable infrastructure and resources. Keeping energy and operational costs low was a key motivating factor when the District chose to work with OpTerra.
"Our District has been exploring the feasibility of solar energy for quite some time," says Don Zdeba, General Manager of IWVWD. "We are very pleased that the economics of a solar project in partnership with OpTerra were favorable and that we were able to include a comprehensive energy efficiency component to the project." The project is expected to reduce the District's electricity spending by approximately 63 percent.
To offset upfront costs of their new program, IWVWD is taking advantage of the Renewable Energy Self-Generation Bill Credit Transfer Program (RES-BCT), which allows local government entities with eligible renewable generating facilities to send energy to the grid and receive generation credits for other benefiting accounts within the District. This program will give IWVWD greater control and flexibility over the amount of credit to be allocated each year to each site, which is useful because of fluctuating energy demands from site to site. Other sites throughout the District will utilize net energy metering (NEM), which allows the District to receive full compensation from Southern California Edison for all the electricity generated by the solar projects at any time.
The solar systems, planned to go online by summer of 2017, are expected to reduce carbon emissions equivalent to removing 574 cars from highways annually.