Farmersville plans solar farm for waste plant, expects to save 30% on energy costs

City hopes to offset up to 30% of its electric bill by adding solar panels and battery storage at its brand new wastewater treatment facility

FARMERSVILLE – The most expensive project in Farmersville history also has one of the most expensive electric bills in the city’s history. 

At its March 14 meeting, the Farmersville City Council approved a $40,000 Project Development Agreement with Johnson Controls to design and install solar panels and solar energy battery storage at the city’s wastewater treatment facility. The proposed panels and batteries would provide up to 30% of the plant’s energy needs, according to the staff report. 

In recent months, city staff has been working with Johnson Controls to identify the scope of services and deliverables needed for the project. Under the agreement, the company will provide cost and savings estimates for the system as well as provide grant writing services to assist in securing funding for the project. The city is planning to apply for funding through the State Water Board’s Clean Water Revolving Fund grant. 

Farmersville’s wastewater treatment facility has been in operation for a full year, so the consultant can use the utility usage data to determine the size of the solar project. The facility opened in March 2021 after 10 years of planning and construction to upgrade the city from percolating basins to updated technology like digesters and clarifiers. The $23 million project is the largest and most expensive in the city’s history and allowed the city to meet the needs of its growing population and business interests. 

Farmersville hadn’t expanded its waste water treatment facility in 50 years when it received a notice from the state it was nearing the 70% capacity threshold for a mandatory expansion project in 2006. Prior to completing the new plant, the city’s old facility was operating at an average of 68% capacity, meaning it was surpassing the 70% mark on higher demand days. 

If the WWTP had not upgraded, the city would have been hampered economically. Not having available capacity means cities cannot issue “will serve” letters to developers, a required document for them to build. That could lead to the State issuing a ban on new development, which would further hamstring the impoverished city’s ability to pay for its own needed improvements like sewer and water.

Installing enough solar to offset nearly one-third of its electric bill would help the city with ongoing costs at the facility and use some of those savings to repay the $5 million USDA loan used to build it.

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