Desert Water Agency captures sunshine to reduce energy costs

Palm Springs' utility took a big step in reducing operating costs with the "switching on" of its new $2.5 million, 355 kilowatt (DC), solar energy plant. The ground-mounted solar electric system, the Coachella Valley's largest photovoltaic installation, was designed and manufactured by Shell Solar Industries, the largest California-based solar manufacturer. It was installed by SoCal Solar Energy Systems Inc., of Mission Viejo, Calif...

PALM SPRINGS, CA, May 6, 2005 -- Palm Springs' Desert Water Agency took a huge step toward reducing its operating costs today with the "switching on" of its new $2.5 million, 355 kilowatt (DC), solar energy plant.

The ground-mounted solar electric system, the Coachella Valley's largest photovoltaic installation, was designed and manufactured by Shell Solar Industries, the largest California-based solar manufacturer, with installation by SoCal Solar Energy Systems Inc., a Shell Solar channel partner, based in Mission Viejo, Calif.

Unique to the solar industry, Shell Solar utilized an innovative assembly method known as "panelization." Rather than connecting individual modules at the installation site, Shell Solar factory-assembled individual solar modules into very large "panels" at their Camarillo facility.

Assembling modules into panels in a factory environment achieves greater quality control and economic efficiencies. "Panelization" also allows for faster and lower installation costs with virtually no waste from shipping materials.

Desert Water Agency's project costs were significantly reduced through a $1.2 million rebate from Southern California Edison (SCE), administered through the Self-Generation Incentive Program.

The SCE Self-Generation Incentive Program is an initiative authorized by the California State Energy Commission to encourage the installation of new low or zero-emission, self-generation units. It is designed to help customers and the state manage peak electrical demand while addressing air-quality concerns.

"Sunny Palm Springs is one of the world's ideal locations for a solar energy system of this magnitude," said Desert Water Agency Board president Ron Starrs. "This investment in renewable energy benefits our ratepayers and the environment. It also makes the statement that utility companies should demonstrate leadership in conserving natural resources."

The football-field-size installation is located on the eastern side of Desert Water's operations. More than 2,000 Shell PowerMaxTM Ultra solar modules span hundreds of feet through the yard. Each solar module delivers 35 volts and 175 watts each, for predicted energy performance of 662,000 kilowatt hours per year, virtually eliminating the electrical bills for Desert Water's main office in Palm Springs.

The solar installation will save the agency more than $70,000 annually at today's rates, according to Desert Water Agency general manager Dave Luker.

"One of the agency's biggest operating expenses is for electricity. It takes a significant amount of energy to operate our air-conditioned headquarters and it takes energy to pump water from the groundwater aquifer. With worldwide energy shortages, costs are only going to escalate. This installation is a valuable tool for controlling agency operating costs," said Luker.

Shell Solar (www.shell.com/solar) has been active in the solar business for over 30 years and was among the first businesses to contribute to the development of solar technology that is marketed across the world today. To date, Shell Solar has supplied solar cells and modules with a total capacity of more then 400 megawatts worldwide, specializing in applications for individual households as well as large power installations. Over a quarter of a million customers have been served in supplying grid-connected and off-grid solar systems. Shell Solar is active in more than 75 countries, with a workforce of 1,300 and is part of Shell Renewables, a core business of the Royal Dutch/Shell Group of Companies.

Desert Water Agency (www.dwa.org) serves a 325-square mile area of the western Coachella valley, including all of Palm Springs, parts of Cathedral City and some outlying areas of Riverside County. Desert Water Agency is a public non-profit agency with an elected five-member board of directors. The board establishes policy and represents the customer taxpayer. Desert Water participates in the California water project.

In related news, see: "Water district in California's Central Valley powered by the sun".

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