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VCMWD approves plans for new solar projects


September 03, 2013
The Valley Center Municipal Water District moved forward with plans for two new solar projects at their board meeting on Tuesday. The board unanimously agreed to submit applications and deposits to the California Solar Initiative (CSI) for new solar arrays at the Cobb Reservoir Pump Station and the MJM Pump Station.

Although the projects will require a combined deposit of $2,500, there are significant CSI rebates if the solar panels are completed within two years, making for a combined total of $67,753 in savings.

"Our whole plan is for it to zero-out," said A. Gregory Hoyle, director of operations. The VCMWD had already set aside funds for solar projects in their budget, and solar equipment is currently at a low-price point. The cost of installing the solar panels should be paid back in five years, according to Hoyle.

The Cobb installation will be a 30 kilowatt array and the MJM installation will be a 25 kilowatt array. These two new projects are coming right on the heels of two other solar projects — the completed array at the Tyler Pump Station and the near-completed array at the Country Club Pump Station.

Although they agreed that the projects are a good investment, several board members raised concerns about the solar panels being manufactured in China, where high-quality Tier 1 panels are cheapest.

"Just give us an option of the best U.S. panels you can get," said Director Merle J. Aleshire, Ph.D. The water district will be comparing the prices of both domestic and foreign panels in the coming weeks.

"What we're going for is low price, high quality, as we always do," said Gary Arant, general manager.

There are also tentative plans to construct a much larger solar project at the Betsworth Pumping Station — a potential 635 kilowatt array. This would require a significantly larger CSI deposit of $20,000, but the rebate would be a whopping $773,468. The board voted to submit an application for this bigger project, but they are waiting to make the deposit until the project has been reviewed further next month.

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