HAYWARD -- With no small amount of pride, city officials unveiled a solar array at the shoreline that uses 5,152 panels spread over 8 acres to generate nearly a quarter of the energy used at the neighboring water treatment plant.
"This isn't the first solar installation for Hayward," City Manager Fran David said at the Wednesday ceremony. "Hayward has been a leader at installing solar panels throughout the city for many years -- before it became popular. Unbeknownst to many, Hayward is a leader in the green world."
The 100 rows of sun-tracking panels make for a large installation, second in the county size-wise only to the one at Santa Rita Jail, said Dave Morosoli, vice president of REC Solar.
But Morosoli added that these are a bit more high-tech. As the sun moves across the sky, the panels tilt to follow it, resulting in a 20 percent boost to generation over nonmoving panels such as those at the jail.
The array generates about 1 megawatt of power. That's enough for 200 average Bay Area homes, and in 25 years, it will offset about 24 million pounds of carbon dioxide -- the equivalent of taking 183 cars off the road each year.
Morosoli said such installations are becoming more popular for facilities such as water treatment plants, which use a lot of power. He said that across the nation, REC Solar is erecting similar arrays for a total of 1.5 gigawatts of power generation.
Hayward's plant -- which can treat 12 million gallons of wastewater each day -- is the single largest energy consumer in the city, but it already has garnered attention and awards for measures that have been taken to make it as green as possible. That includes methane generators that already were producing 30 percent of the energy used.
The addition of the solar array puts it at 54 percent, and Bob Bauman, Hayward's director of public works. He said they plan to make it self-sufficient within a couple of years.
About $2.6 million of the $5.7 million project was paid for by the California Solar Initiative, and a low-interest $2.5 million state loan covered most of the rest.
Morosoli said the resulting savings will pay off the plant in six to 10 years, and the facility has a life span of 25 to 30 years.
"Solar systems are always feasible," he said. "It pays for itself."