Solar WWTP project sheds energy-saving light on Aurora

The sun is shining brightly on Aurora’s wastewater treatment plant, in more ways than one.
Last week’s open house and information tour marked the completion of a two-year effort to build a solar plant designed to convert the sun’s energy into power for the city’s wastewater treatment plant. It’s an innovative concept, putting Aurora on the map yet again as a statewide leader.
Rich Melcher, who served as the city’s utility superintendent for many years before stepping into the city administrator’s role, deserves credit for his vision on this project. Melcher said he’s been thinking about the concept for nearly a decade and first tried to figure out a way to use methane gas as an alternative power source. When that didn’t pencil out, he shifted his focus to wind and solar, eventually creating a partnership that led to the solar solution.
The array of solar panels now following the sun from a location just east of the wastewater treatment plant is impressive. It’s a high-tech operation involving a partnership between the city, GenPro Energy and Nebraska Public Power District, with the end result adding up to major savings for Aurora residents.
Depending on the amount of sunlight hitting the solar field in a given year, Melcher said the project could reduce power costs for the wastewater treatment plant by as much as 80 percent a year. With an annual power bill of approximately $100,000, that’s a projected savings of $80,000 a year, every year, for many years to come.
That is a textbook definition of how renewable energy is supposed to work, generating long-term, sustainable financial savings while also reducing an entity’s carbon footprint. In this case, that entity is the city of Aurora and its residents, who can be proud of all this project represents.
We tip our hat and congratulate Rick Melcher for his leadership on this project, as well as the Aurora City Council, GenPro Energy and NPPD for helping put our community in such a positive light.
Kurt Johnson

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