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Agency’s hopes are sky high

Energy: Castaic Lake Water Agency wants to turn part of its property into a field of solar panels

Posted: May 20, 2010 10:52 p.m.
Updated: May 21, 2010 4:55 a.m.

If you build it, the sun will come.

And in the process, it will underwrite much of our energy costs.

That’s the dream of water resource planners at the Castaic Lake Water Agency as they begin transforming part of the agency’s back lot into a cost-saving field of solar panels.

“The hope is to turn this area here into a field of solar panels,” Edward Colley of the water resources committee told about a dozen people taking a tour of the agency Wednesday.

Standing on a concrete slab overlooking house-sized pits ringed with walls of exposed rebar, Colley explained to the group that all the construction unfolding in front of them was evidence the agency is keeping pace with a growing community and its growing thirst for clean, reliable water.

Then he directed the group’s attention to a blow-up color aerial photograph of the agency’s land and pointed out a large green area on the photo, off to the side of the construction.

“This is where we think the solar field will be,” said Colley, a retired United States Air Force captain who holds a master’s degree in electrical engineering and is director of the Devil’s Den Water District Board.

Devil’s Den is about 130 miles north of Santa Clarita, just north and west of where Interstate 5 crosses the Paso Robles Highway.

Early last year, committee members and those on the Devil’s Den Ad Hoc Committee unveiled plans to turn Devil’s Den — a Kern County water outpost — into a green and sustainable solar-powered, money-making enterprise.

The solar field planned for that agency property could cover up to 2,000 acres, with enough solar panels to cover more than 15,000 football fields.

By contrast, the solar panels earmarked for the northeast corner of the Castaic Lake Water Agency property on Bouquet Canyon Road, overlooking Central Park, would cover about eight acres — approximately six football fields.

The agency’s Jeff Ford said water resource planners who are excited about the cost-saving prospects of the Devil’s Den plan decided to build a smaller version closer to home.

“At the time we were looking at Devil’s Den, we saw some advantages to developing a similar plot here to offset some of the energy demand here,” he said.

A field of solar panels on the outer edge of the water conservation garden at the Rio Vista Water Treatment Plant would kick out 1 megawatt of power.

“It would sustain our power demand when we’re running at low volume,” Ford said. “We would actually generate power and then sell it back to Edison.”

The agency is compiling a short list of firms that could make the solar field dream a reality. A similar tendering process is expected to be done for the larger task of converting Devil’s Den into a massive solar field.

California utilities are required by state law to have 20 percent of their electric supply come from renewable sources by 2010, and 33 percent by 2020.

“There’s a lot of demand right now for renewable energy,” Ford said.

The state offers money in the way of subsidies through the California Public Utilities Commission.


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