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Windsor recognized by state nonprofit for solar project

Windsor has received a prestigious award for its floating solar energy project.

The 2021 Helen Putnam Award for Excellence was given to the town Thursday by the nonprofit League of California Cities at a league conference in Sacramento being attended by city leaders from around the state. More than 1,800 people were there, according to Jill Oviatt, director of communications for Cal Cities.

The award recognizes exceptional achievements by California's 482 cities, and promotes innovative solutions by city governments, according to a news release issued by the organization. Windsor and 10 other winners in other categories were chosen from 125 submissions.

The floating solar array has generated more than 2 million kilowatt-hours of renewable energy since it went online in October or more than $210,000 worth of electricity.

The solar project helps Windsor cut greenhouse gas emissions in line with their climate action goals.

“We appreciate the recognition for our floating solar project,” said Windsor Mayor Sam Salmon. “It not only helps us save money, but also helps us to operate in a cleaner, greener and more efficient way.”

The solar array is estimated to save Windsor up to $175,000 per year. The array was built by Ciel et Terre, a French company with a Petaluma office. The town has a 25-year lease and power purchase agreement with the company to provide discounted clean energy.

Councilwoman Deb Fudge said the solar array was her “pet project.”

“I was very proud, and I know this town was honored to receive this award,” she said. “This project is dear to my heart because I shepherded it for 10 years to get it in Windsor. It’s a big deal for a town to get this.”

Fudge said it was the second try at a solar project for the town. A solar project with panels on carports at the corporation yard failed to get built.

“Ciel Et Terre was very easy to work with,” she said. “Once it got started it was very smooth.”

Town Manager Ken MacNab said the award is “a win for the environment and a project our staff and community can take pride in.”

Public Works Director Shannon Cotulla pointed out that the technology behind Windsor’s floating solar array is new in the U.S., and combines ground-based solar with marine engineering.

The array covers 4 acres of the town’s largest recycled water pond and is composed of almost 5,000 360-watt panels atop a floating rack system. It generates 90 percent of the electricity needed to power Windsor’s wastewater treatment facility, public works corporation yard, public works administration building and Geysers pump station, which delivers reclaimed water to the geothermal field in the Mayacamas Mountains.

“Our floating solar array has reduced our reliance on higher-pollution energy sources by about 350 metric tons a year,” Cotulla said.

Click here to see a video about the project that was shown at the conference youtube.com/watch?v=UFVN4-p0mWA

You can reach Staff Writer Kathleen Coates at kathleen.coates@pressdemocrat.com.

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