Weed flips the switch to solar power

Skye Kinkade
Weed City Manager Ron Stock and Mayor Ken Palfini “flipped the switch” last week to symbolize the city’s move to solar power, which is gathered on top of the parking structure next to city hall.

 With the symbolic flip of a switch last week, the City of Weed buildings became fully powered by solar energy, collected by panels that are on top of the new parking structure next to the police department.

The project was funded by a $1.4 million low interest loan from the California Energy Commission, as well as a city contribution of $170,000 from capital reserves. The finished project resulted in $1.6 million worth of improvements.

The photovoltaic (commonly referred to as PV) system is expected to produce approximately 333,000 kilowatt hours per year and 8.35 million kilowatt hours over its lifetime. The equivalent yearly outcome of these returns are 32 cars off the road, 17,379 gallons of gasoline saved, 4,531 trees preserved and 23 American homes powered, according to Climatec, an energy efficiency company that partnered with the city complete the project.

Savings accrued over the lifespan of the new equipment and the solar system are estimated at $5.5 million and 12.1 kilowatt hours.

In addition to the PV systems, Weed now has interior and exterior LED lighting on its principal buildings, including City Hall, the library, and the wastewater plant. There is also a new, intuitive heating and air system at city hall.

During Thursday’s ceremony, Tyler Girtman, Climatec’s regional manager, said it was a pleasure to work with the city to address key infrastructure in Weed.

Weed’s mayor Ken Palfini said while savings that will be accrued by implementing the project are important, sustainability is too.

Weed City Manager Ron Stock said the idea to go solar was sparked nine years ago but never came to fruition. Then two years ago, the city became partners with Climatec which was able to bring “the dream to a reality.”

Stock explained that the city’s wastewater treatment plant pumps effluent 12 miles uphill along Highway 97 to apply effluent to hay fields as the final tertiary treatment. Although the city utilizes the most energy efficient pumps available and does its pumping at the least expensive time of day – between midnight and 3 a.m. – it was spending $100,000 a year on the pumps alone.

Without any increase in energy costs, it is estimated that the city will pay off its loan in 16 years. If energy costs rise, it will pay off the cost of the equipment before the 16 year mark, said Stock.

This is a good investment, Stock said, especially since the panels have a 25 year warranty.

“This is a good project for the city, but more importantly for the community,” said Stock. “People live in Weed because they like the outdoors.

They’re hunters, fisherman, bikers and skiers, he noted. “They are the true environmentalists and they expect us to do these kinds of projects.”