Solar power in DuPage

Sounds good to me: what's the downside (if any)?
Time to go home

Sun may help keep suburbs' water running A 2-acre batch of solar panels may soon be seen by drivers on the Eisenhower Expressway under a proposal by Chicago and the DuPage Water Commission.

The photovoltaic field, which converts sunshine to electricity, would be used to help power a $12.9 million backup power facility on the city's West Side. It would be one of the largest in the Midwest, officials said.

The Water Commission wants to build the plant for the Lexington Pumping Station along the Eisenhower, with some of the electrical power potentially being produced by solar energy. Chicago would install the field of solar panels.

Since 1997, commission officials have proposed building a backup power plant to ensure that DuPage communities would still get lake water during power outages. While all of the commission's member communities--except Roselle and Willowbrook--have retained their own community wells as backup water sources, most DuPage towns' water departments now have shifted their operational capabilities to strictly handling water distribution and not supply.

Commission officials originally had recommended locating backup power at the Elmhurst pumping station. But after a vulnerability assessment in 2004, they recommended constructing backup plants at both the Lexington and Elmhurst locations.

“Nothing in our contract with our customer utilities requires the DuPage Water Commission to do any kind of backup, but the water purchase agreements say that the commission will make its best efforts to provide water,” said Robert L. Martin, the commission's general manager.

The commission voted in February to move forward with the long-proposed project at Lexington, and it subsequently entered into negotiations with city officials on the design and location of the diesel-powered generating plant.

During discussions, city officials proposed installing 7,142 solar panels, covering more than 100,000 square feet, on top of the 30-million-gallon underground reservoir next to the Lexington pumping station.

Spatz said no formal agreement has been struck yet between the city and the agency for the plant or solar field. The current agreement is being reviewed by the commission's attorneys.

Chicago officials have offered to pay half of the backup plant's cost, up to $8.5 million, commission officials said.

While the Lexington pumping station serves the water commission, the city's water system also benefits from it. And most of the other pumping stations in the city's water system have some kind of on-site power generation. According to a map provided by the commission's engineers, eight of Chicago's 12 pumping stations currently have backup power generated on-site, either by diesel or steam power.

(photo not of DuPage, obviously)

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This page contains a single entry by Seth A. published on September 21, 2006 3:57 PM.

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