FL Wastewater Plant Powered by Solar


The Key Largo Wastewater Treatment District (Key Largo, Florida) recently installed 334 solar panels on the rooftop and over the chlorine contact basins at its main plant.

The project is the district's inaugural endeavor and plays a significant role in keeping Florida as one of the top 10 solar capacity states.


The topic of solar panels has been an initiative of Commissioner Steve Gibbs since around 2014.

But the ball hadn't started rolling until November 2017, when board commissioners approved the use of photovoltaic panels to be designed and bid to shade its chlorine contact basins.

In March 2018, a single proposal was received by SALT (Marathon, Florida). With its bid a little high, SALT worked with Wieler Engineering (Gorda, Florida) to explore cost-savings options and opportunities. By June 2018, the Board recommended approval to SALT for the installation for both solar arrays for $366,600. This resulted in a net savings for KLWD of approximately $942,000 over the projected 30-year life or arrays and assuming no grant funding is used. If the project were to be fully grant-funded, the projected 30-year savings would total $1.31 million.

After years of research and commissioner board meetings, the KLWD approved a budget in September 2018, for the Fiscal Year 2019 including $30,000 for engineering for the Solar Demonstration Project for Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Loan Program and an additional $338,700 for solar power products for its CCC and Ops building.

Work began in October 2018 and was completed in January.

Up and Running

The panels began operating on Jan. 25, and officials say they have produced 214.04 kWh alone on Feb. 21. According to district engineer, Ed Castle, the solar array should be able to harness enough energy to consistently power 12 average Florida Keys homes.

Previously, the solar array project started as a small installation over the chlorine contact basins alone. The idea was to cost-save in two ways: reduce chemical evaporation and produce solar energy at the same time.

After receiving an award from the Florida loan program for $3,333,333 in Stewardship Funds for capital “green” improvement projects, the project grew. And, even after project expansion, the project received $386,600 from the DEP grant with no cost to ratepayers.

“This truly serves as an example to other Florida Keys organizations to tap into renewable energy sources,” said state Rep. Holly Raschein, R-Key Largo.

District manager Peter Rosasco also added: “We will be reducing our carbon dioxide footprint, equivalent to 3,324 trees taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.”

The main plant’s operations are projected to consume an estimated $458,000 in energy by the end of the year, and $2.5 million in combined energy and chemical savings over the next 40 years. Including panel performance expectancy, upkeep costs should be minimal.

“There’s virtually no maintenance cost on these panels,” Key Largo Wastewater Treatment District Plant Manager, Jered Primicerio said of the photovoltaic system. “They’re basically ‘plug-and-play’ and designed to withstand hurricanes.”

What’s Next

With success and praise already about this most recent project, the district hopes to add rooftop arrays at its headquarters, in addition to each of the six pumping stations. This next step would further defray annual energy costs totaling $738,600 in the 2018-19 fiscal budget.

The Solar Energy Industries Association reports that 252,957 Florida homes are already powered by solar energy. This accounts for 1.07 percent of the entire state’s solar-produced energy.

According to research at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Sunshine State is expected to boom in growth over the next five years, having just been added to the third-most new solar capacity last year. SEIA predicts that Florida will move from eighth to second in its five-year projection.


Tagged categories: Bidding; Completed projects; Energy efficiency; Engineers; Environmental Controls; Environmental Protection; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Funding; Grants; NA; North America; Ongoing projects; Solar; Solar energy; Wastewater Plants

Join the Conversation:

Sign in to our community to add your comments.