Why Solar Energy Makes Sense for Water Treatment Plants

The COVID-19 pandemic and all of the disruptions it has caused has many municipalities reeling. Lost tax revenue is just one unforeseen issue. There are also problems with businesses and individuals unable to pay utility bills due to the economic shutdown or loss of jobs.

The one thing that has remained constant is this: water treatment plants must continue to operate. People still need clean water and sewage processed.

This has created a significant municipal pain point. Treating water and sewage sludge are energy- and infrastructure-intensive processes. For many municipal governments, water treatment plants are their largest energy consumers, accounting for 30 to 40 percent of total energy consumed. Energy can be as much as 40 percent of operating costs for drinking water and wastewater processing systems.

Here’s something that may surprise you. Energy costs are also a municipality’s largest controllable cost associated with providing water and wastewater services.

I know that sounds crazy; electricity costs what it costs, right? Yes and no. If you stay with the status quo, plugged into the local grid and reliant on fossil-fuel generated electricity, yeah, your energy costs aren’t going anywhere but up over time.

The other option is to look at renewables such as solar energy that can slash energy costs in half. It’s an attractive option that municipalities eager to reduce overall operating costs and improve customer relations are taking a good hard look at. There are a lot of reasons that solar energy makes sense for water treatment plants in the post COVID-19 era. Here’s the Solential take on this important topic:

ONE: Energy rate stability for you and your customers.
Once you have an installed solar system, you no longer have to worry about fluctuating electricity bills based on seasonal usage surges or other economic factors. There is no charge for the sun’s energy. Monthly energy costs are stable, predictable and typically, up to 50 percent cheaper than your old power bill. This is a huge benefit for local government, but more importantly for customers. Their water and sewer bills stabilize, too.

TWO: Potential for passive income.
A solar system can be a revenue generator. This is possible if your solar system produces a surplus of energy. This surplus is purchased by your utility company, creating passive income. Now that’s a win!

THREE: The capital expense of commercial solar is down, making solar more affordable than ever.
Plus many local governments, states, and federal agencies such as the EPA, DOE, and FDA have grants and other financial incentives to support solar adoption by municipalities and local utilities. I recently posted this blog with helpful links to some of these programs. Solential is also very good at connecting customers to grants and other financing. If you have let the upfront costs of solar stop you in the past, with all of the financial resources available today it’s definitely worth revisiting.

FOUR: Ease of maintenance.
Solar systems – the racks, panels and inverters – are designed to last for 30-40 years. There are two aspects of maintaining a solar system. First, grounds maintenance is ongoing and essential. Overgrown vegetation will interfere with the panels’ ability to collect solar rays. Utilities have three options: plant grass which requires regular mowing; install gravel below the arrays and treat with herbicides; or plant a pollinator habitat of native flowers and grasses that requires no mowing. Each has its advantages, but natural habitat composed of low-growing plants is the most affordable.

Equipment maintenance is also essential, and thanks to technology, far less intensive. Solential uses a cloud-based remote monitoring and management app we developed called Solview to track each solar system we’ve installed in real time. If the system notices anything amiss with a solar system, we get an automated alert with details on the issue. This allows us to proactively deploy a technician to address the issue. Live monitoring plus scheduled on-site maintenance by our technicians makes maintenance easy to our customers. And, all customers have access to our remote monitoring solution via our website. This has been a lifesaver during the pandemic when many utility employees were working offsite.

FIVE: Community approval.
Let’s face it, sustainability is important to communities. With solar, there are no carbon emissions and greenhouse gases. This translates into cleaner air, cleaner cities, a brighter future, and civic pride. People want to live and do business in communities that care enough to invest in green energy solutions. And what better message to send.

There are other significant advantages of solar for municipal water treatment plants I haven’t touched on, but I’ll save that for a future post. I would like to stress that commercial solar systems for water treatment plants are not a budget buster, especially with the incentives, grants and interest rates that are now out there. I am happy to chat with you about your municipality’s energy needs, how solar can lower your operating costs, make your customers happy, and yes, financing, Shoot me an email at cmiller@solential.com or call/text me at 317-627-4530. Looking forward to talking solar with you.