Solar Power at the Water Pollution Control Plant

In 2005, the City installed the solar electric system at Chico's Water Pollution Control Plant. It is a ground mounted photovoltaic (PV) tracking system, which maximizes the sun's available energy by capturing up to 25% more daylight than fixed arrays, as the tracker follows the sun from early morning to late afternoon. The system uses high efficiency PV modules to generate maximum output per square foot. The modules are composed of solar cells made of solid-state semiconductors to convert sunlight into direct current (DC) electricity. The DC output from the PV modules is then converted to alternating current (AC) electricity by inverters for use by the city of Chico.

The PV system is able to supply approximately 40% of the plant’s energy needs. The City anticipates an average annual savings of $250,000 in avoided electricity purchases with a total net savings of $4 million over the next 30 years. It is estimated that the system will pay for itself in 15 years. The system cost $7.6 million but the City was able to obtain a $3.7 million rebate.