Sweetwater explores energy generation with floating solar array

Sweetwater Authority (Authority) is making strides toward carbon neutrality and costs savings by pursuing a floating solar array on Sweetwater Reservoir. The first of its kind in California, the project would significantly offset the Authority’s current energy demands by about 66 percent and reduce the Authority’s current electricity costs by an estimated $500,000 each year.

 In June 2023, the Authority’s Governing Board (Board) approved a term sheet with Noria Energy to develop, design and implement a 3.7MW system covering up to 10-acres, or approximately one percent, of the reservoir surface area. The system intends to take advantage of San Diego Gas and Electric’s Renewable Energy Self-Generation Bill Credit Transfer (RES-BCT) program and apply a credit to the Authority’s 50 highest energy using accounts.

Floating solar systems are designed to be long-lasting and safe for drinking water reservoirs. The only contact with the reservoir water would be the anchoring systems and floats made of HDPE, one of the main materials used in drinking water pipelines. Water from Sweetwater Reservoir is treated at the Authority’s Perdue Water Treatment Plant before being distributed to customers, and meets all water quality standards.

“The Authority is always exploring opportunities to use clean energy to reduce costs and offset carbon generated as part of our operations,” said General Manager Carlos Quintero. “With the cutting-edge floating solar technology now available, we may have a unique opportunity to generate our own energy and protect our ratepayers against impacts from future rises in electricity costs.”

The Authority has been working directly with its Community Advisory Work Group to share information and gather feedback about the project. Noria Energy will provide additional project updates to the work group at its next meeting on January 23.

Noria Energy was founded in 2018 with the goal of supporting efforts to reduce energy costs, improve resiliency and meet sustainability goals through the adoption of clean energy. Noria Energy has deployed one of the largest floating solar systems in the United States in Sonoma County, CA.

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