BY PRU SOWERS
KONK LIFE STAFF WRITER
Continuing its efforts to “go green,” Key West city officials are moving ahead with plans to explore installing solar panels at the Fleming Key wastewater treatment plant.
Utilities Manager Jay Gewin said his staff is developing a budget request to take to city commissioners in July that would fund a design and engineering task order in the 2015 fiscal year. The amount of the request has not been finalized but would build on the $25,000 already allocated towards the project. The total cost for the panel design is estimated at $100,000.
The first part of the project would be a feasibility study to determine how much power a solar panel installation could actually produce. Electricity costs at the wastewater treatment plant in 2013 were almost $834,000 and Gewin is hoping to offset a portion of that with solar energy.
“I don’t think it’s realistic to expect the entire plant by any means to be powered by solar,” he told city commissioners at a budget workshop last month. “But I think it’s a great opportunity for us to embrace some green technology out there.”
Initial estimates of the cost to install a panel array are $742,000, not including the $100,000 design fee. Once the feasibility study is complete, the city can then pick the system that would be in its best interest, Gewin said.
“It seems like the rate of return for solar has been getting better year over year. Originally, it took 15 to 20 years to recoup your investment. Now, it’s closer to 10 years or less, to the point where it’s something more financially feasible for the utility,” he said.
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