April 08, 2016

Chatsworth Water Works Commission installs solar panels

Aerial photo of the Chatsworth Water Works Commission solar project
Left: Aerial photo of the Chatsworth Water Works Commission solar project in Chatsworth, Ga., Nov. 3, 2015. (Inman Solar Inc.)

Many businesses, organizations and government agencies across Georgia are considering solar power because it is clean, renewable energy that benefits the environment and reduces energy costs.

The Chatsworth Water Works Commission (CWWC) is committed to providing the best water and wastewater services at the lowest possible rates for its customers. Between the CWWC’s main office and the Judson Vick Wastewater Treatment Plant, was a 5-acre, untouched, overgrown field. The CWWC decided that using the field for solar power would be an efficient way of serving their customers. Given its hours of operation coincide with the peak hours for solar power generation and the potential for long-term savings, the CWWC decided to turn the empty field into a 5-acre array of solar panels.

The CWWC received a Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA) loan of $3 million at 1.3 percent interest and $300,000 in principal forgiveness to finance a 1 megawatt (MW) solar photovoltaic farm. Since the project conserved energy, CWCC also received a 1 percent interest rate reduction (reduced from the standard rate of 2.03 percent). This was the first solar project associated with a water or wastewater treatment plant financed by GEFA in the state.

Once ground broke on the project, it only took six weeks for the solar panels to start producing power. The solar array is capable of generating up 1 MW hour of electricity a day, enough to run the utility’s main office and the wastewater treatment plant. The solar panels produce more electricity than the utility needs and the surplus is sold to Georgia Power. The projected total savings over the next 25 years are approximately $5.5 to $6 million.

The solar project has benefitted the CWWC’s operations, and set an example for other water and sewer utilities to follow. With a little help from the sun, utilities can better manage rising energy costs to keep rates as low as possible for their customers.

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