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Published: 8/11/2011

Solar energy to power Toledo water-treatment plant

$5.2M array can supply quarter of facility's needs

BY CLAUDIA BOYD-BARRETT
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Paul Toth, left, chief executive of the port authority, with Deputy Mayor Tom Crothers, John Witte of Advanced Distributed Generations, and Kevin Moyer of the port authority, examine the solar panel array. Paul Toth, left, chief executive of the port authority, with Deputy Mayor Tom Crothers, John Witte of Advanced Distributed Generations, and Kevin Moyer of the port authority, examine the solar panel array.
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With the sun high in the sky, there was little shade to be found outside Toledo's water treatment plant Wednesday afternoon -- perfect conditions to showcase the city's latest solar-powered venture.

Rows upon rows of black panels -- 12,300 in all -- glistened next to the Collins Park Water Treatment Plant in East Toledo where Mayor Mike Bell and a slew of local officials gathered to unveil a solar energy field billed as the biggest inside the city. Paid for through a mixture of public and private funds, the field is expected to supply about a quarter of the treatment plants' energy needs, ultimately trimming the city's electricity bill.

"This is a great day in Toledo," Mayor Bell said. "It proves that Toledo is on the front end of being able to do some very great things."

Construction of the field began about five months ago, although the planning process for the site was several years in the making, Paul Toth, chief executive of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority said. Close to half of the $5.2 million cost of the project was paid for through a U.S. Department of Energy grant. The rest is being paid for through Port Authority bonds and IPS Energy Ventures.

IPS Energy Ventures, which contributed $1.9 million to the project and has committed to paying back the Port Authority loan, will own the solar field for 10 years. Ownership will then pass to the city. The arrangement brought down the overall cost of the project because as a private company, IPS can obtain clean energy federal tax credits, officials said.

Toledo's environmental services commissioner Tim Murphy said the city will have to pay IPS for the energy generated from the field initially, although it will cost less than electricity generated by traditional methods. Mr. Murphy said the new field is expected to save the city 1 cent per kilowatt hour, and will produce at least 1 million kilowatt hours of energy a year. Savings will be dependent on the amount of sunlight and other factors, he said.

Some of the 12,300 solar panels reflect the water tower at the city's water treatment facility, which will be powered by electricity generated by the new $5.2 million project the city unveiled. Some of the 12,300 solar panels reflect the water tower at the city's water treatment facility, which will be powered by electricity generated by the new $5.2 million project the city unveiled.
THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Once the field becomes the city's property the energy will be free. The solar panels are under a 25-year warranty, he said.

"This is the city paying forward its piece of the pie," he said.

Materials and construction work were provided by Toledo area companies, officials remarked.

First Solar, whose only U.S. manufacturing plant is in Perrysburg Township, supplied the solar panels, and Toledo firm Advanced Distributed Generations did the construction. Nextronex Energy Systems of Millbury supplied the inverters needed to connect the panels to power lines, Mr. Murphy said.

"We're supporting what Toledo's new economy is all about and I'm proud to stand here today," Mr. Toth said.

Toledo City councilman Joe McNamara said the solar field showcases the area's blossoming solar power industry. "I really think renewable energy is the future of this country," he said. "Toledo ... is poised to be a leader in these technologies."

In addition to the Collins Park field, the Port Authority is working on plans for two other solar projects that it expects to unveil in the next month, Mr. Toth said.

Contact Claudia Boyd-Barrett cbarrett@theblade.com or 419-724-6272



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