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February 1, 2011 > Solar carport benefits the environment and bottom line

Solar carport benefits the environment and bottom line

Submitted By Michelle Powell

Union Sanitary District (USD) recently completed an 11,000 square foot covered storage area for its vehicles and emergency equipment that packs an added bonus: 637 solar panels on its roof will generate power and lower the District's energy costs.

"The new carport is expected to produce about 210,000 kilowatt hours of energy per year, or enough to power about 19 homes," says Capital Improvement Projects Manager Sami Ghossain. The structure should provide 30 to 50 percent of the power to the District's Administrative and Collection Services buildings at its Alvarado Wastewater Treatment Plant in Union City during peak output. "So far, energy production has been higher than originally estimated," says Ghossain.

Covered storage was needed for USD's large maintenance vehicles and to protect its emergency equipment from the elements. "This project has many positive attributes," Ghossain says. "We have the opportunity to lower our carbon footprint and protect the environment by creating a source of renewable energy for our buildings, save money by reducing energy costs, and keep our vehicles and emergency equipment in a better state of readiness." The District expects to receive about $250,000 in rebates from PG & E over the next five years.

USD's next solar project will provide energy-saving and environmental benefits on a larger scale. Solar arrays will be constructed at the District's Irvington Pump Station in south Fremont. That system, due to be completed by the end of summer, will make the pump station "self-sufficient in terms of power," says Ghossain. "The building and its equipment will be run by power generated on-site."

Union Sanitary District operates a 30 million gallon per day wastewater treatment facility in Union City and provides collection, treatment and disposal services to the Tri-City area. For more information about USD's solar projects, contact Sami Ghossain at (510) 477-7601.

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