WRCRWA Future-Proofs Its Energy Solution with SunPower

Our SunPower solar solution gives us the chance to use a renewable, sustainable energy source that has zero carbon emissions, and shows leadership to all of our constituents. It’s also a very smart way to use technology to hedge against future energy rate hikes.”

– Jeff Sims, Assistant General Manager, Western Municipal Water District & Administrator, Western Riverside County Regional Wastewater Authority

According to a 2005 California Energy Commission report, nearly one-quarter of the country’s electricity is used to move and treat water. Hoping to significantly reduce the amount of energy needed to reclaim water at its Corona, CA facility, the Western Riverside County Regional Waste Water Authority (WRCRWA) turned to solar photovoltaic power. The agency – one of two operated by the Western Municipal Water District – now boasts a nine-acre solar installation comprised of over 5,000 high-efficiency solar panels featuring SunPower® T20 Trackers. With the help of a power purchase agreement negotiated by SunPower and financed through Wells Fargo, WRCRWA found both a renewable energy source and a hedge against future energy price increases.

Looking to Reduce Energy Costs

The WRCRWA plant currently processes six million gallons of waste water per day,and has plans to expand its processing capacity in the coming months. As a result, WRCRWA began seeking alternative energy sources to reduce its utility bill. Ata utility conference, Jeff Sims, Western Municipal Water District’s Assistant General Manager, heard a presentation about Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) for solar power. With no capital investment, a Solar PPA allows an organization to pay for the clean electricity generated by their solar system at a set rate per kilowatt hour that is equal to or lower than the standard utility rate. “Through colleagues I learned that SunPower had done the solar installation for Rancho California Water District nearby through a PPA,” Sims said. “The tax credits sounded very attractive, so we put out an RFP to a number of solar vendors.”

SunPower Offers Ideal Solution

When his agency had received all of the bids for the solar project, Sims said the choice was clear. “SunPower absolutely had the best deal. They offered the complete package of high-efficiency panels, backed by superior services.” In addition to the quality of SunPower technologies, Sims adds that SunPower’s ability to finance the system with Wells Fargo through the two companies’ $100 million sales leaseback program made WRCRWA’s purchase possible. “SunPower was just outstanding about guiding us through the PPA,” Sims noted. “We saw this as a way to control our energy costs over the next 20 years.”

The Right Choice Now and for the Future

Given California’s turbulent economy, governmental agencies must be especially careful when making long-term financial commitments. Sims believes that investing in SunPower was the right choice for WRCRWA. “Our biggest concern was whether we were pulling the trigger on solar at the right time, or whether some newer, better technology would come along,” he said. “But the warranty that came with our PPA said that in 20 years our solar panels will still be rated at 80 percent of their original efficiency. So that made us all very comfortable with this deal. We couldn’t be happier with our decision to go with SunPower.”

Project Overview

Location:    Corona, CA
Completed:    December 2009
Installation Type:    Ground Mounted
System Size:    1 MW
PV Area:    9 acres
Products:    SunPower® T20 Tracker
Financing:    Power Purchase Agreement

  • Carbon emission reductions of 39,789 tons over 30 years,the equivalent of planting 8,220 acres of trees or not driving78,196,027 miles.
  • The system will generate 25 percent of the plant’s power needs;enough to power 200 homes each year.
  • SunPower® T20 Trackers capture up to 30 percent more light thanconventional fixed-tilt systems.
  • Power purchase agreement provides solar electricity at ratesthat are competitive with retail rates, with no upfront costs.