OWASA Receives Orange County Climate Action Grant Funding for Cane Creek Reservoir Solar Array

The Orange County Board of Commissioners voted on Tuesday night to award Orange Water and Sewer Authority $75,000 from the Orange County Climate Action Grant program to be used toward a solar array at Cane Creek Reservoir. This project will reduce OWASA’s purchased electricity costs, helping keeps rates affordable for OWASA customers while also furthering the community’s goal of moving toward more renewable energy sources.

Solar panel installation on Berry Andrews Road.

Cane Creek Reservoir is located on Highway 54 west of Carrboro and is the primary drinking water supply for OWASA customers and holds roughly 3 billion gallons of water when full. The energy generated by the solar array at Cane Creek Reservoir will help offset energy used by pumps at the reservoir that transport raw water to be treated at the Jones Ferry Road Water Treatment Plant in Carrboro before it is distributed to customers across the service area in southern Orange County.

This shovel-ready project will generate almost 525,000 kilowatt hours of clean energy in year one and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 120 metric tons each year. OWASA was set to break ground on this project in Fiscal Year 2021, but funding was removed as OWASA adopted a budget that did not require a rate increase due to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

OWASA was able to move forward with three other solar array projects recently because they required no additional money down beyond the Duke Energy solar rebate and the annual lease payments are less than the total energy cost savings. The Cane Creek Reservoir project, however, is a much larger system than the previous installments. Due to the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and uncertainty around future budgets, this project would not be likely to move forward without this grant funding.

This project supports OWASA’s Energy Management Plan, where work resulted in avoiding more than $565,000 in electricity and natural gas costs in the last fiscal year.

OWASA’s Cane Creek Reservoir solar array was one of six projects to receive funding through this round of the Orange County Climate Action Grant program.