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Power Up Sun Shines On Solar Ceremony
South San Joaquin Irrigation District is going green.

Or, rather, it already has.

A Friday morning dedication ceremony for the SSJID Solar Farm on Dodds Road drew a large crowd of dignitaries, local officials, interested residents and the media to a site adjacent to the Nick C. DeGroot water treatment plant. The solar farm, designed and implemented by SunTechnics Energy Systems, Inc. of Sacramento, was put in at a cost of more than $7.8 million and will provide an estimated 2,232,000 kilowatts of energy per year.

It is the second largest non-utility solar project in the state.

"We have some of the best soil, the best water, the best energy resources to work with in the world," SSJID Board President Dale Kuil told the crowd, noting that harnessing the sun's energy was a logical progression for the irrigation district.

With a one-megawatt project, Kuil said, the district can provide much of the energy it needs to power the water treatment plant.

An information sheet distributed at the dedication ceremony indicates the project will provide 60 percent of the water treatment plant's energy demand and 70 percent of its energy costs, saving the district money.

Kuil also introduced longtime board member Bob Schulz, bringing him to the podium to announce that the board would be voting on a recommendation to name the solar farm in his honor, the Bob Schulz Solar Farm. Schulz has been on the SSJID board for more than two decades.

"We have a great district ... this is a great honor," Schulz said.

Also offering remarks at the dedication ceremony was SSJID General Manager Jeff Shields, who said the solar farm is one more way the irrigation district can meet its needs and those of its customers while reducing its "carbon footprint" and doing its part to save the environment.

The district will mark its 100th anniversary next May and Shields said there is an "aggressive agenda" for the district between now and then. Dedication of the solar farm was just one of the items on that agenda.

"SunTechnics came in with a very aggressive proposal, a multimillion dollar, state of the art proposal," Shields said of working with the Sacramento firm to bring the farm on line.

He also praised the efforts of a couple of PG&E officials, noting that, despite the ongoing friction between the two power providers, the project "really did benefit" from PG&E's participation.

"I also want to thank the board for the kind of vision" it took to get involved in the project, said Shields.

"This was a seven-and-a-half million dollar investment ... a major investment and the board had the vision, the foresight, the patience," Shields said of seeing the project through to completion.