Project leaders estimate the project will save $143 million over the next 20 years.
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The sun wasn't on full display Monday morning, but Fresno is hoping to harness the normally consistent sunshine seen in the valley year-round in a big way.
"At the beginning of 2020, the City of Fresno organization only had 1.7% of its total electricity use supported by solar," said Scott Mozier, Director Department of Public Works. "1.7%. With the completion of the projects announced today, that number will have increased over 46% meaning will have 27 times more solar energy when these projects are completed."
City leaders joined ForeFront Power for a groundbreaking ceremony at the Southeast Surface Water Treatment Facility. Solar panels and battery storage will be installed there, as well as at the Fresno-Clovis Regional Wastewater Reclamation Facility and Northeast Surface Water Treatment Facility.
Those solar panels will directly power the facilities.
"The largest public utility solar project will be located at the wastewater treatment facility and will provide a 75% offset from the power grid," said Brock Buche, Director Department of Public Utilities.
Right now, city leaders say the city pays roughly $40 million a year to PG&E for power. The city estimates once all of the projects are up and running, likely in the next 18-24 months, its PG&E use will drop 44-45% yearly as it depends more on solar energy.
Project leaders estimate this will save $143 million over the next 20 years as less money is paid to PG&E and a fixed below-market rate is paid to ForeFront Power for the solar energy. No exact rate was given for the fixed rate as city leaders say the rate varies by location.
The impacts go beyond saving money. Council President Tyler Maxwell says the project will offset 38 thousand tons of emissions each year.
"The equivalent of removing 8000 gas-powered vehicles off the road every single year," said Maxwell. "The equivalent of planting 600,000 new trees over the span of 10 years. We can now provide clean drinking water while using clean energy to do it."
PG&E responded to the city's solar project in a statement, writing:
We look forward to working with the city as they expand on their solar generation capacity. In 2022, PG&E delivered clean electricity to customers that was 95% greenhouse-gas-emissions free, with nearly 40% from state-qualified renewable resources, including solar which provides clean, cost-affordable energy for millions of our customers' homes and businesses. The availability of more solar will further improve air quality and reduce emissions in the Valley.
ForeFront Power will construct, own, and operate the solar and battery sites at no cost to the city. It's estimated the project will create nearly 192 over the next 20 years.