Helix Water District

El Cajon, CA

Solar is covering nearly 90% of the energy consumed at the operations center

Overview

Helix Water District is the second largest water district in San Diego County providing high quality water to customers covering an area of nearly 50 square miles, serving the cities of La Mesa, El Cajon, Lemon Grove, the community of Spring Valley, and various unincorporated areas near El Cajon. Their innovative and dedicated employees and Board members maximize human and technological resources, providing superior service to their customers.

Helix Water District owns Lake Jennings and Lake Cuyamaca. Helix also has storage rights of 10,000 acre feet in El Capitan Reservoir for water from Lake Cuyamaca, San Diego River tributaries, and imported water. Treated water is stored in the 30-million-gallon Grossmont Reservoir and 21 other storage tanks located throughout the District. The District has a total storage capacity of 63 million gallons for filtered water.

Installation

Several years ago the Helix WD began searching for areas at each of its facilities that might accommodate solar installations in order to save customers money, decrease the District’s carbon footprint and take advantage of clean renewable technologies. With Borrego Solar and the help of the consulting division of the California Center for Sustainable Energy, it was determined that a solar power installation at the Nat. Eggert Operations Center was the most suitable location. The District had also wanted to build a shade structure on site to protect the equipment and materials from being damaged by the sun, but they didn’t have the budget for it. After conducting a feasibility study on various sites, it was decided that in order to obtain maximum operational efficiency, three of the OC rooftops would host solar arrays, as well as a newly constructed elevated shade structure in the storage yard where the panels could be mounted on top. The project has 1,232 solar panels, covering a total of 21,662 square feet, and the layout gives the added benefit of cover for the pipes, valves and other equipment, Helix was searching for.

Benefits

The Helix WD solar energy system was installed, and being operated and maintained under an integrated power purchase agreement (PPA) with Borrego Solar. Under the current PPA that was approved by the Helix Board of Directors, Helix WD didn’t have to pay for the solar asset and in turn will pay a rate for the energy produced that is less than what they’re paying San Diego Gas & Electric. Under the agreement, for the next 20 years, the Helix WD will purchase approximately 454,000 kWhs of clean energy per year, which is about 90% of the energy consumed by the OC. At the end of the PPA term, the District can renew the contract, purchase the system outright or have it removed should a more efficient technology become available.

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