Philadelphia is aiming to purchase or generate 20 percent of its electricity from alternative sources by 2015 under Mayor Michael Nutter’s “Greenworks Philadelphia” agenda, and a new solar power system at a water treatment plant brings the city a tiny bit closer to the mark.
Contractors began work on the photovoltaic system at the Philadelphia Water Department’s Southeast Water Pollution Control Plant in December, and it began generating power at the end of January, according to contractor CETCO. With a generating capacity of 250 kilowatts, this ground-mounted system is hardly a monster; it covers about an acre of unused land and its power output is equivalent to what 28 average homes would need. Compare this to what the hometown Philadelphia Eagles are planning for Lincoln Financial Field: a 7.6-megawatt onsite dual-fuel cogeneration plant.
Still, the solar system will help run the water treatment plant, which could reduce power costs borne by ratepayers, and backers hope it will spur more solar projects. “The City looks forward to learning from this project and replicating it,” said Kristin Sullivan, program director of the Philadelphia Solar City Partnership.
Rarely do such projects come about through a simple outlay by a municipality, and this one is no exception: Philadelphia was assisted by a $850,000 from the City’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).