E.M. Johnson Water Treatment Plant Produces Energy Through a Rooftop Solar Array

Last updated Feb. 04, 2016 - 2:47 pm
Solar Array at E.M. Johnson Water Treatment Plant

The City of Raleigh's E. M. Johnson Water Treatment Plant is home to one of North Carolina's largest rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) arrays. Officials toasted the coming on-line of the array with SunDrop soft drink at the dedication on January 20, 2010.

Carolina Solar Energy built the 250-kilowatt (kW) array at the City of Raleigh's water treatment plant, and is selling its output to Progress Energy Carolinas for distribution to its customers.

The solar photo-voltaic array is made possible by Progress Energy's SunSense Commercial Solar PV program, which is designed to encourage the development of renewable energy by offering a premium price for solar power developed on commercial rooftops. In 2009, Progress Energy accepted proposals for a total of more than 2,000 kW under this program.

"The City of Raleigh is aggressively pursuing every possibility in the realm of sustainability," Mayor Charles Meeker said at the dedication ceremony for the solar array. "Bringing all of these local elements together to this roof top is producing not only kilowatts but enthusiasm and creative energy for what all we can do next." Carolina Solar Energy is a Triangle based company as are King Electric Co. and TROSA who installed the array.

"We are committed to developing solar power, along with energy efficiency and state-of-the-art power plants, as part of a balanced approach to meeting our region's growing energy demand," said Lloyd Yates, president and chief executive officer of Progress Energy Carolinas. "Our SunSense programs and this project continue our long history of partnering with local communities, and we are proud to help advance this innovative technology."

This solar PV array is the first in the Southeast to use First Solar's thin-film PV technology, which allows the panels to generate electricity for longer periods during the day. It began operating Dec. 31 and is expected to generate approximately 325,000 kilowatt-hours a year - roughly equal to the annual energy demand of 22 typical homes. The PV array will reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 230 tons, which is equivalent to conserving 26,000 gallons of gasoline.

The E.M. Johnson Water Treatment Plant is located at the southwest corner of Falls of the Neuse and Raven Ridge roads in Raleigh. The array is located on the roof of the plant's "clear well," a large concrete structure that stores clean water before it is sent to be used by city residents. Carolina Solar Energy has a 20-year lease with the City, and the City has an option to buy the solar array in the future. No City capital investment was required for the project.

The City of Raleigh and Progress Energy Carolinas, which is headquartered in Raleigh, have already partnered on several "green" initiatives. These include installing energy-efficient LED streetlights, preparing the City for electric vehicles through the NC Get Ready project and a 13-megawatt solar PV array to be built at the Neuse River Waste Water Treatment Plant.

This is the third solar project that Carolina Solar Energy has developed with Progress Energy. The other two solar PV arrays are a 75-kW array at the RBC Center in Raleigh and a 650-kW array in Person County. Both are in operation.

Solar Array At Neuse River Wastewater Treatment Plant

In 2008, the City of Raleigh Public Utilities Department began investigating solar generation and identified the wastewater treatment plant site as a potential location for an array. This was done with the assistance of Mike Nicklas of Innovative Design, an internationally known and environmentally sensitive architectural firm based in Raleigh and the winner of the city's 2009 Pioneering Environmental Award.

The city invited several experienced solar power developers to provide a project bid in response to Progress Energy Carolinas' request for renewable energy proposals, issued initially in November 2007. The company's request is designed to meet the requirements of North Carolina's Renewable Energy and Efficiency Portfolio Standard, passed in 2007. After an extensive evaluation process, Progress Energy Carolinas accepted Southern Energy's proposal.

On July 7, 2009, the Raleigh City Council approved an agreement that will allow a 1.3 megawatt solar photovoltaic array to be built at the Neuse River Wastewater Treatment Plant. The arrangement between the City of Raleigh, Progress Energy Carolinas, Southern Energy, and NxGen Power is unlike any other in the state of North Carolina and reaffirms the City's commitment to being a leader in the community in sustainability.

Under the terms of the agreement, Southern Energy and NxGen Power will build, own and operate the array and sell the output to Progress Energy Carolinas for distribution to its customers. The project will be the first utility-scale solar power project located on local government property in the state. This is the fifth and largest solar array project announced by Progress Energy Carolinas, bringing the total amount of solar-generated electricity scheduled to be purchased by the company to more than 5 megawatts.

The decision by the Council authorized City staff to negotiate a lease agreement with Southern Energy and NxGen Power for approximately 10 acres at the plant, which is located at the northwest corner of Brownfield and Battlebridge roads. No City capital investment was required for this project.

Southern Energy, based in Morrisville, recently completed two other megawatt-size arrays in North Carolina. The company is developing this project with financing partner NxGen Power, based in Charlotte, creating a wholly North Carolina-based project. Southern Energy anticipates creating 13 to 15 new local jobs through the construction phase of the solar array.

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