Utilities Bowtie Together Water And Electricity

The San Antonio Water System (SAWS) has a flare for the spectacular. In 2010 it became the first large wastewater utility in the United States to partner with a private sector company to sell biogas, produced from its Dos Rios Water Recycling Center. Now land around that same plant is home to two solar power arrays that outstrip any wastewater-treatment solar project we’ve seen.

But credit here goes as much to CPS Energy as anyone else. Although the project is on San Antonio Water Systems land, the municipally owned electric and natural gas utility was the big player in making the projects happen.

CPS Energy, San Antonio Water System, SunEdison

image via CPS Energy

CPS Energy worked with SunEdison to have 83,034 sun-tracking photovoltaic solar panels installed at two locations around the Dos Rios facility, covering nearly 200 acres of land, the utility said. The two solar farms add up to provide 19.8 megawatts of generating capacity, several times heftier than the sort of systems we typically see at or around wastewater treatment plants.

CPS will buy all of the power produced from the projects through a 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA).

CPS Energy has a number of solar installations operating, but this is its biggest now, topping the 14.4 MW Blue Wing Solar facility. It brings the utility’s total solar generation to 34.2 MW.

SAWS, meanwhile, has another nifty renewable energy thing going on in its backyard.

“Our Dos Rios Water Recycling Center is already a model of sustainability by optimizing existing resources, so it seems a natural fit for solar energy to be harnessed here as well,” SAWS head man Robert R. Puente said.

In addition to the solar and the biogas, the Dos Rios plant also turns biosolids into compost and produces 115 million gallons a day of recycled water for use by the city’s Riverwalk, golf courses, parks and commercial and industrial customers as well as in the upper San Antonio River and Salado Creek.

As is wont to happen in situations like this, people in suits (we’re guessing they wore suits; we weren’t actually there) from CPS Energy, SunEdison and SAWS joined San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro at the new solar installations to say hurrah. They also cut a “unique bowtie-styled ribbon” to dedicate what have been dubbed William R. Sinkin Centennial Solar Farms 1 and 2.

Bowties? Yeah: Because Bill Sinkin, described as a “local solar energy advocate,” is known for wearing bowties.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

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