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First-of-its-kind efficiency partnership with PG&E expected to save SLO millions in energy bills

The City of San Luis Obispo is expecting to save millions of dollars in the coming years, while cutting way back on its carbon footprint. The project responsible for these savings, is the first of its kind in the state, and is now a model for others. 

Methane gas produced by decaying solid waste now feeds a cogeneration power plant that provides the facility with enough energy to cut the power bill by 25 percent. That's no small reduction, given the annual bill is roughly $550,000.

The cogen plant is just one of several energy-saving additions at the Water Resource Recovery Facility off Prado Road. In addition, the plant is getting rebates from PG&E and the Gas Company to help offset the system's cost.

Other additions include a new system for drying out the treated solid waste, saving time, transportation expenses, and reducing the odors often associated with the facility. 

Facility Supervisor Howard Brewen says the plans for the energy upgrades came from a brainstorming session with facility staff a few years ago.

"If we do this right, we can set a precedent for all of the other municipalities in the state California, and that was one of our driving goals," said Brewen on Tuesday. "We wanted to do this right, but the big vision said, why not be the trailblazer."

After making some key connections, PG&E was approached to partner on the project, something the power company had done on a federal level in the past, but never before with a local municipality.

The project itself cost $9.5 million, but that money is expected to be made up in savings and rebates over time, something rarely seen on municipal projects, says Brewen.

A ribbon cutting ceremony is scheduled for Wednesday morning, but Brewen says all new energy-saving additions to the plant are already up and running.