Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

Sunshine will help power Hanford’s sewage plant

Chevron Energy Solutions designed and installed a new solar-power system at Hanford’s wastewater treatment plant.

Hanford is dedicating a new solar power system on Tuesday that is expected to save the city millions of dollars in electricity costs at its wastewater treatment plant in the coming years.

Chevron Energy Solutions designed and installed the 1-megawatt system, which has solar panels mounted at ground level. Chevron will also operate and maintain the photovoltaic panels, which convert sunlight directly into electricity.

A megawatt, by the way, is one million watts. A 1-megawatt plant can produce enough power to meet the electricity needs of about 300 homes.

The city expects that solar power will reduce its electricity purchases by about 50% at the treatment plant — about $7 million over the life of the system.

Mayor Sue Sorensen said in a written statement that Hanford’s future “is brighter because of this project and the vision of sustainability that it helps fulfill.”

In September, Chevron Energy Solutions and Kings County announced the completion of a three-stage, eight-year program of energy efficiency improvements and solar-power construction at county buildings in Hanford, Armona, Corcoran, Kettleman City, Lemoore, Stratford and two county parks. The solar component of the program included putting solar panels on parking shade structures at the Kings County Government Center in Hanford and the county library in downtown Hanford.

West-side school district goes solar, gets music program back

The Firebaugh-Las Deltas Unified School District has made a daring leap to solar power at three of its five school sites — a $5 million venture aimed at getting off the grid, saving money and helping the environment.

But there’s one more benefit: It made enough money available to bring back a music program that had died three years ago with the crashing economy. The district hired a music teacher and re-started its program this fall.

“Every student needs something to connect with in school,” said superintendent Russell Freitas. “This is a great opportunity to get students the chance to connect with music.”

This is quite a story about solar power being used in an impoverished, rural school district on the San Joaquin Valley’s west side. If it works, this might be the start of something big in the Valley.

How did Firebaugh-Las Deltas, a 2,300-student district, swing a deal like this?

The district got help from a consulting firm to figure out if its payments on the loan would be less than the cost of its utility bills.

The numbers reportedly show a $9 million savings over the next 25 years, said Freitas, who worked with SolarCity, a national company with a Fresno office. The system will be paid off in 15 years, he said.

During the first five years, the savings will be about $900,000, said Freitas.

The system has been installed at Firebaugh High School, Firebaugh Middle School and Hazel Bailey Elementary School. The schools are still connected to the electricity grid as backup, Freitas said.