In 2000, the Lowell Regional Water Utility (LRWU) faced the possibility of having to build an entirely new treatment plant to replace aging and inefficient unit processes and mechanical equipment. Since then, we have worked with the LRWU to implement cost effective upgrades that both saved money and increased revenue, including the installation of a solar array.
A new facility would have cost the LRWU between $50 and $60 million. Instead, we developed $12 million worth of upgrades for the existing 30-MGD facility and implemented them without interrupting operations or raising user rates. Upgrading the existing facility instead of constructing a new plant has saved the LRWU millions of dollars in finance costs while still providing high quality water to consumers. By replacing older pumps with new, energy efficient pumps and motors equipped with variable frequency drives, the LRWU is saving over $200,000 per year in energy costs. Additionally, a new SCADA system automated numerous functions for the utility, allowing more time to be allocated to important core tasks.
After conducting a feasibility study and energy assessment, we worked with the LRWU to install a 610-kilowatt photovoltaic array on the roof and grounds of the existing treatment plant. Funded by the SRF Loan Program, the $2.2 million array generates revenue through the sale of Solar Renewable Energy Credits and offsets energy costs at the facility. After payment of the debt service, the combined impact for the LWRU has been $150,000 per year in electrical savings and new revenue.