Windsor plans to use floating solar panel system to power town’s public water facilities
Windsor is turning to alternative energy to power its water facilities, by teaming with a French company that will install floating solar panels this summer across a large pond on the town’s public works property.
The solar power system is expected to reduce electric costs and push ahead the town’s agenda to be a local leader in efforts to contend with climate change.
The floating 1.8-megawatt solar panels will supply the energy needs of Windsor’s wastewater plant, public works building and Geyser pump station. The alternative energy system won’t cost the town anything to install or operate because French enterprise Ciel and Terre is leasing the pond from Windsor for 25 years in exchange for producing discounted clean energy for use by the town’s water operations.
“We are very excited about this because it is highly innovative and it is pretty amazing to have something like that in Windsor,” said Toni Bertolero, the town’s public works director. “It shows that as a town we don’t shy away from these things.”
Once the panels start generating electricity by the end of the year, it’s estimated the solar system will produce about 90% of Windsor’s water reclamation power requirements, and save the town about $175,000 a year on the Public Works Department’s electric costs, or $4 million over the next 20 years, Sandi Potter, deputy director of water and environment management in Windsor, said in a statement. The town’s water facilities’ power consumption costs an estimated $650,000 annually.
Solar panels will be anchored to flotation devices — like those used to support docks at marinas — which will be tethered to the shore to hold the floating solar system in place, said Chris Bartle, business and development manager at the Ciel and Terre offices in Petaluma, where the company operates a U.S. branch. The panels will be placed over the water in a fixed position covering about 4 acres of a nearly 18-acre pond.
“Extra energy not being used will be stored in the grid to be tapped for months where there is less light and during nighttime hours,” said Bartle, noting the Windsor energy system will be the company’s seventh installed in the United States.
For Windsor’s leaders, the floating solar system represents one of many steps they are taking toward achieving their climate goals.
“We are taking a hard look at our greenhouse gas emissions, and solar is something we have been wanting for a while,” Bertolero said. “We are also replacing our gas-powered vehicles (with) electric, looking at renewable fuel and installing LED streetlights.”
Ciel and Terre will build and install the floating solar system and is “paying for everything, which was the beauty of the whole arrangement,” Bertolero said.
Windsor officials discovered the solar power opportunity through the Sonoma County Water Agency that for years has been trying to lease a few of its ponds to floating solar system technology enterprises. The water agency learned that the French firm also was looking to collaborate on a project here.
Windsor’s Public Works Department was recommended and now it’s becoming a reality, said Dale Roberts, principal engineer for the water agency.
“They are the first government department in the area to successfully team up with a floating solar panel project company, so we are really happy for them,” Roberts said of Windsor’s Public Works Department officials.