The Central Texas town of Lometa will use solar power to help manage the costs of treating its wastewater, thanks to a $488,714 grant from the Office of Rural Community Affairs (ORCA).
The grant will enable 50 kilowatts of solar panels to be installed at the wastewater treatment plant, which is owned and operated by LCRA and serves Lometa.
“Rising energy costs are hitting everyone hard, but especially rural communities,” said Charles S. (Charlie) Stone, ORCA’s executive director. “Solar power and other forms of renewable energy can help small towns have more control over their energy costs.”
The grant to Lometa is the second awarded for renewable energy by ORCA through its new Renewable Energy Demonstration Pilot Program (REDPP). Lometa, with a population of about 800, is located in western Lampasas County.
The first grant in the program was awarded in March to the City of Seminole for a project using wind power to desalinate groundwater, providing a new source of drinking water for the West Texas town.
For the Lometa project, LCRA will contribute $51,738 toward in-kind services to design and construct the facility that will house the solar array. LCRA will eventually assume ownership and maintenance responsibilities for the solar installation.
“LCRA is very pleased to be part of this important renewable energy project,” said Marcus Pridgeon, LCRA assistant general manager and chief operations officer. “Adding another form of energy will help prevent plant operation costs from being as heavily impacted by dramatic changes in the cost of fuels like natural gas or coal.”
The 50-kilowatt solar installation – one of the largest in Texas – could reduce the plant’s annual energy bill by as much as 50 percent.
“The cost of solar power remains relatively high,” said ORCA Board Member Charles Butts Sr., who is originally from Lampasas County and recently retired and moved back home eight miles east of Lometa. “But those costs are declining rapidly. This project can provide a blue print for how other rural communities in Texas can begin to cut their energy costs.”
The Hamilton County Electric Cooperative, which serves Lometa, has agreed to a net-metering arrangement in which excess power from the solar array would feed into the cooperative’s grid. The energy bill for LCRA’s wastewater treatment plant would then be credited for that excess power fed into the cooperative’s grid.