Chowchilla trusts green path to fund upgrades

July 15, 2017

The Chowchilla City Council has successfully concluded the sale of bonds to finance an energy efficiency program expected to save about $28 million dollars over the next 30 years.


In a joint effort with Johnson Controls, Chowchilla will install 2,166 solar panels at its wastewater plant. The program will shift 80 percent of the wastewater plant’s power supply off of PG&E and on to those panels, as well as using solar panels to power city buildings and water wells.


To pay for the program, Chowchilla will rely on Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREB), a federal program that assists in financing energy saving projects by halving interest rate costs.


According to City Administrator Brian Haddix, “The key to this system is that electricity costs continue to climb, yet the annual payments on the bonds stay the same. As the difference between the two widens, the city realizes increasing savings from owning its own solar panels. Plus, the CREB greatly reduced the cost of the bonds, meaning more savings to the city.”


Johnson Controls has guaranteed the promised savings, and has committed to paying the difference if results fall short.


Chowchilla already has plans for money saved through the energy program. These infrastructure projects include: building a 2.5 million gallon water storage tank; upgrading the city’s drinking water distribution system, including installing new wells; installing booster pumps to the water system to assure adequate pressure throughout Chowchilla; enhancing external lighting at City Hall, Police and Fire Stations; installing security cameras at sensitive locations; converting City streetlights over to energy efficient LED systems; and installing drinking water meters.


At Chowchilla’s Corporation Yard, derelict buildings will be removed, new facilities built, and heating and cooling systems upgraded on city buildings.


“The City of Chowchilla is constantly looking for ways to drive its costs down while improving our infrastructure,” said Chowchilla Mayor Mary Gaumnitz. “By being creative in using solar power to run our wastewater plant, and by employing energy efficient equipment, we can modernize our city services without placing the burden on the backs of taxpayers.”


The City of Madera and Madera County also make wide use of solar-generated energy. A recent installation was a solar-panel array atop the county government center’s parking structure.

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