Sexton Mountain Reservoir to be powered by solar panels by spring 2014
Written by Kari Bray
Solar panels will be installed on top of the Sexton Mountain Reservoir off Murray Boulevard by May 2014, city officials say.
Beaverton will contract with an outside developer to install panels at the reservoir, which provides drinking water to 69,000 Beaverton residents. The city received $355,420.80 from the Energy Trust of Oregon for the project.
The contractor will pay for the installation of solar equipment using grant funds but no city dollars, Beaverton’s Sustainability Manager Cindy Dolezel said. The city’s only cost at this point has been a $5,000 study of the site to make sure the reservoir can safely carry the weight of the solar gear.
Under a 20-year contract with whatever company is selected to install the panels, the city will pay the new cost of electricity for the reservoir's operations, which is projected to be significantly less than the current bill, Dolezel said.
It costs about $106,000 every year to pump water from the reservoir, according to the city. Initial estimates for savings total $52,000 per year, cresting a projected $1.3 million saved at the end of 25 years.
At the end of the contract, Dolezel said the city will have three options: offer to extend the agreement, ask the company to remove the solar panels or purchase the equipment from the company and continue operating the reservoir with city-owned solar power.
Dolezel said the city began looking into the project several years ago, but funding never came through. When the Energy Trust presented an opportunity, the city revived the project.
“They have solar, we have land. They want land to put their solar on, and we want the low energy costs,” Dolezel said. “So it’s really a mutually beneficial private-public relationship.”
The city recently hosted a small, quiet open house with neighboring property owners. Dolezel said she invited 19 residents, and 11 people showed up. Most were supportive, she said, though at least one couple was less than thrilled with the idea of looking at solar equipment outside their house rather than the current open space of the reservoir. Some residents also expressed disappointment that the city will build a 6-foot-tall fence around the reservoir.
But the fence is overdue, Dolezel said. Wandering pets and playful kids are better off in a park or yard than on the somewhat permeable surface of a drinking water source.
“This is the hub of our city water supply,” she said.
The bidding process for finding a contractor will start in October 2013. Under the terms of the Energy Trust’s funding, the project design must be approved by the Trust before the end of the year, and the solar equipment must be constructed by May 2014.
The Beaverton City Council will receive an update on the solar project at its Oct. 15 meeting, and councilors will likely be asked to approve the power purchase agreement within the next couple months.
The project is a step toward internal city goals to reduce electricity use for city operations by 20 percent from 2008 to 2015 and to drop greenhouse gas emissions from city operations by 20 percent from 2008 to 2020, Dolezel said.
Streetlights and water pumping are two of the city’s most energy-consuming functions, she added. It takes significantly less electricity to operate city buildings every day.
Lowering the cost for pumping the water will also help keep water rates steady, Dolezel said.
The city is angling for the contractor to use locally manufactured panels, but will keep an open bidding process. However, Dolezel said the requirements for panels will be specific, requiring things like a 35-year warranty to give Beaverton a long-lasting product.
“We’re trying to invest in smart energy,” she said.
Solar power is something the city is keeping an eye on, Dolezel said, but projects depend entirely on funding opportunities.