DC Water’s Blue Plains campus in Southwest Washington consumes a massive amount of electricity as it disinfects waste water for roughly 2 million area customers. By 2016, it may be producing some of its own power, with help from the sun.
The utility is soliciting statements of qualifications from contractors to develop, design, permit, install, finance, operate and maintain a solar power generating system at Blue Plains. While DC Water has not decided on the ultimate size or scope of the project, it has identified enough capacity at Blue Plains to generate AC capacity in excess 11.6 megawatts, all of which it would purchase.
That’s a lot of power from a single campus, but then again, the 150-acre Blue Plains Advanced Water Treatment Plant is the largest such operation in the world. The minimum on-site power consumption at Blue Plains, measured at noon through a two-year period, was 18.5MW.
“The Blue Plains AWTP is unique in the DC Metropolitan area in that it offers both the physical space for a substantially sized solar photovoltaic power generation project, as well as constant on-site demand for significant electrical power,” according to the SOQ, released on Monday.
DC Water envisions the solar project as having “significant environmental contributions” while providing an opportunity “for significant electric utility savings at Blue Plains by way of a [power purchase agreement] at rates lower than current grid electricity rates” and advancing the agency’s energy efficiency.
There are at least 10 Blue Plains facilities that could be covered by photovoltaic panels, the largest being the nitrification sedimentation, and east and west secondary sedimentation tanks — all of which are candidates for a PV canopy-type system.
DC Water provides drinking water and waste water services to more than 500,000 D.C. customers, while also treating and delivering drinking water to 1.6 million customers in Montgomery, Prince George’s, Fairfax and Loudoun counties.
The solicitation follows a similar bid by the D.C. Department of General Services to layer upward of 50 city buildings in solar panels, generating roughly 10MW. But with DC Water, the process will be more complicated given the “corrosive environment associated with an operating wastewater treatment facility” and other conflicts with plant operating requirements.
The statement of qualifications, due by July 9, will result in a shortlist of candidates to receive a formal request for proposals. A notice to proceed with the project is anticipated by January, and commercial operation by Sept. 14, 2016.