Rancho California Offsets Energy Load by 30% with SunPower® Solar Tracking Solution

With SunPower, the whole package is compelling: the panels, the value, and the experience.”

– Andy Webster, Acting District Engineer, Rancho California Water District

Since 1965, the Rancho California Water District (RCWD) has served the water, waste water, and reclamation needs of Temecula and Murrieta, California. Asa forward thinking, environmentally and strategically cost conscious district,when management looked at utility rates rising and the district’s energy bill reaching over $5 million annually, in an effort to reduce electricity costs and grid dependencies RCWD turned to solar power. Working with SunPower, RCWD found both a high-efficiency solar solution that would maximize long term savings, along with proven industry expertise needed to make the optimum purchasing decision.

Other Alternative Solutions Did Not Pencil Out

For the past several years, RCWD’s Board of Directors had evaluated a variety of renewable energy initiatives, including hydroelectric power, reservoir pump storage,and other measures. But with a careful eye on the district’s finances –– the board had not identified a green program that seemed financially feasible. “Our major concern was economics, and none of these projects seemed to pencil out,” says Andy Webster, acting District Engineer. “Plus, there were many challenges with regard to regulatory compliance, and our local utility also had stringent requirements for implementing renewable energy programs.”

Strong Incentives, Right Partner

After learning in January 2007 about the California Solar Initiative (CSI) incentives available for public districts looking to implement solar power, RCWD took immediate advantage and secured a strong rebate at $0.34/kWh (Step #3 of CommercialCSI program) in Southern California Edison territory. Following their reservation, the district put out a request for proposal to a number of solar vendors; of the three that responded, SunPower offered the ideal combination of technological excellence and industry expertise. “We wanted a company that had past experience with water agencies and districts, and was capable of completing our project from beginning to-end quickly and with ease – and that turned out to be SunPower. They had both the best price and products as well,” Webster says. In addition, he claims that “our SunPower representative really explained all of the financial options, including how to leverage the SunPower Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) which required no capital outlay on our part.” The district now pays for only the electricity generated by the system it is hosting, financed, owned and operated by SunPower Corporation itself. Simultaneously SunPower worked with RCWD to determine both optimal solar site locations, as well as how to best comply with the utility for interconnection needs and other critical decisions.” This consultative guidance was a key factor in RCWD’s decision making process for the right solar partner.

Lower Payments, Higher Payback

Since RCWD’s SunPower® T20 Tracker System, generating up to 30% more power than standard fixed-tilt solar systems, was turned on, Webster says the district has been enjoying a multitude of benefits. The top of the list has included paying significantly less for electricity. “For the Santa Rosa Water Reclamation Facility,we are projecting saving over $152,000 this year, and off-setting our facility’s energy demand by approximately 30%.” This is an enormous improvement in daily operations. In addition, as RCWD opted to keep the Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) associated with its system, the district also has the ability to market the positive impact they are making on the environment by reducing over 73 million pounds of harmful carbon emissions over the next thirty years through their solar investment. “In addition to helping us comply with future federal, state and local regulatory requirements for water and waste water utilities, our ability to speak to our green focused initiatives, while saving money is of importance,” says Webster. We’ve been very happy with our SunPower solar installation and look forward to expanding our solar footprint in the future.”

Project Overview

Location:    Murrieta, CA
Completed:    December, 2008
System Size:    1.12 MW
PV surface area:    8 acres
Number of Panels:    4,870
Products:    SunPower® T20 Tracker

Benefits
  • Reduces over 30% of the district’s electricity load for its Santa Rosa Water Reclamation Facility
  • Saves over $152,000 per year in utility costs; Estimated savings of $6.7M over 20 years
  • Provides a built-in financial hedge against rising electricity rates
  • Will help reduce carbon emissions by over 73 million pounds over 30 years;Equivalent to planting 7,560 acres of trees or removing over 6,065 cars fromCalifornia roads
  • Contributes to Rancho California Water District’s increasing commitment to sustainability & environmental practices