Tapping into those 4,400 solar panels, which are generating 1.2 million kWh of clean energy per year, is now saving the company about $77,000 a year.
According to published estimates, it’s also offsetting the need for 3,000 barrels of oil a year or reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 1.4 million pounds a year.
“We’re in the water business, we are concerned for the environment and want to employ green technologies,” says Bob McNulty, the energy manager at Aqua America, the parent company. “It’s the combination of that and trying to do whatever makes sense energy wise.”
The solar farm is also alleviating congestion on the grid, which reduces line losses and congestion charges, and ultimately saves consumers money.
In September, Aqua received the Green Power: Turn it On! Award from Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future for its 1 MW photovoltaic solar farm at the Ingram’s Mill Water Treatment Plant. In April, the solar farm received the Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence from the Pennsylvania Environmental Council.
The sea of panels is sitting on a 4-acre piece of land just behind the water treatment plant. The project took Conergy, a global solar company, about nine weeks to build and was completed in December 2009.
Recovery and rewards
Aqua started on the project last fall so it could take advantage of various tax incentives, including the first-year bonus depreciation which expired on December 31, 2009.
Aqua, which dates back to 1886 when a group of college professors were tasked with supplying water to the people of Springfield, Pa., used a $1 million State Energy Program grant administered through the Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority (PEDA) with Recovery Act funds to build the $6 million farm.
Aqua’s solar farm was one of 25 projects that were collectively awarded almost $21 million from PEDA to produce or save 2.2 billion kWh of electricity over their lifetimes. Ten million of that came from the Recovery Act.
According to PEDA, these projects will create 430 permanent green jobs, 1,068 construction jobs and help to retain 4,110 manufacturing jobs by stabilizing energy costs with on-site renewable energy systems.
“The solar industry is rapidly expanding,” says McNulty. “And this project is a piece of that solar industry growth. There is no doubt that our project and other solar projects are creating jobs.”