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Solar powered sewer system?
Written by Mark Lineberger   
Wednesday, 22 July 2009 13:28

Energy can be expensive, but the sun provides a steady stream of it, especially here in Arizona.

It’s that solar power one group hopes to convince the Camp Verde Sanitary District to harness to power their new wastewater treatment plant.

The GreenWorld Energy Foundation, a local nonprofit corporation formed last year to help spread the use of solar energy, gave its presentation to the district board last week.

The group wants to work with SunPumps, a Safford-based company that’s been building solar power systems since 1985.

“They seemed interested,” said Allen Crawford with GreenWorld. “It’s a great program.”

The district, which has had its share of ballooning expenses while trying to build a new treatment plant and expand its service area, is always looking for ways to save money.

Crawford said that his group would help the district find grants and other sources of funding to help pay for the system, which he said won’t cost the district a dime in the long run.

Exactly how that would work remains to be seen; the district is only in the very early stages of looking at this proposal to determine whether it is viable or not.

Crawford said the proposal would involve his organization leasing 11 acres or so to put up a solar energy distribution system. The district would pay what it did for energy in 2008 for five years to the solar energy provider, after which the district would buy the solar energy equipment, which has an expected lifespan of around 20 years.

Of course, there are complications. Crawford said it’s not clear if there are 11 acres of land available. There’s also the matter that the sewer district is building a new treatment plant that will no doubt have different energy costs than the current plant.

GreenWorld’s original focus was water conservation, Crawford said, which led to looking at solar power as a natural energy alternative.

“There’s a lot of water used in the [non-solar] production of electricity,” Crawford said.

It’s all part of a broader approach to solving energy problems, according to Mark Schmidt, development director with GreenWorld.

“Our stated purpose is to assist other nonprofits and municipalities in acquiring solar distributed generation systems,” Schmidt wrote in an e-mail to The Journal. “The emphasis of our program is to increase public awareness regarding the existing regional water crisis, and how local thermoelectric generation contributes to the problems.”

The group has signed a non-binding letter of intent with the district, Crawford said, a first step outlining what the group hopes to accomplish and a starting point to sit down at the table with the district.

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