LOMETA, Texas– This small town in Lampasas County is the first in Texas to have its wastewater treatment plant powered by the sun, thanks to a grant from the Texas Department of Rural Affairs (TDRA).
State and local officials gathered at the Lometa plant today to dedicate a 100-kilowatt solar array that is expected to provide or offset up to 100 percent of the electricity needed to run the facility, which is owned by the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA).
"By using solar power, we expect to hold down operating costs at the plant," said Darrin Barker, Hill Country regional manager of LCRA’s Water and Wastewater Utility Services.
Electricity costs at the plant will be reduced an estimated $13,000 annually by using electricity generated by the 442-solar panel array located next to the facility. Lometa, with a population of 842, is located 85 miles northwest of Austin.
TDRA awarded a grant of $488,714 to Lometa in 2008 to install the solar array at the wastewater plant. The grant was through the agency’s Renewable Energy Demonstration Pilot Program, which allocates Community Development Block Grant funds to help rural communities cut energy costs by installing wind turbines or solar panels at water treatment and wastewater treatment facilities. LCRA contributed more than $51,000 in in-kind services and materials to install the array.
"One goal of our Lometa project is to collect data that will help rural communities determine the affordability of installing renewable energy systems to reduce their biggest energy bills, usually water and wastewater treatment," said Charles S. (Charlie) Stone, TDRA executive director.
Stone said the costs of solar panels and other renewable energy technologies are dropping, while the costs of traditional electrical generation are likely to rise.
"In the future, we’ll be seeing renewable energy projects like the one in Lometa in rural communities across Texas," Stone said.
When the sun is shining, the solar array will generate sufficient electricity to run the Lometa plant. The Hamilton County Electric Cooperative has agreed to buy excess electricity produced by the solar array and will give credit back to LCRA when it buys electricity to run the plant at night and when the sun is not shining.
Texas Department of Rural Affairs makes the broad resources of state government more accessible to rural communities. The agency is a provider of rural-focused state and federal resources for community development, economic development, housing and rural health. TDRA is the federally designated State Office of Rural Health and the governor’s lead agency for oversight of disaster recovery funding, and specifically administers the non-housing portion of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) disaster recovery funds. For more information, visit TDRA online at www.tdra.state.tx.us
The Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) is a nonprofit conservation and reclamation district that provides energy, water and community services to Texans. Created by the Texas Legislature in 1934, LCRA has no taxing authority and operates solely on utility revenues and service fees. LCRA supplies electricity to more than 1.1 million Texans through more than 40 wholesale customers. LCRA also provides many other services in the region. These services include managing floods, protecting the quality of the lower Colorado River and its tributaries, providing parks and recreational facilities, offering economic development assistance, operating water and wastewater utilities, and providing soil, energy and water conservation programs.