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The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California unveiled this week its latest investment in solar power, intended to reduce both carbon emissions and operational costs.

Metropolitan Board Chairman Randy Record joined General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger to flip a ceremonial switch signifying the activation of two separate solar fields at the district’s F.E. Weymouth Water Treatment Plant in LaVerne.

The 3-megawatt solar installation covering 15.5 acres will generate about 6.5 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of clean, renewable energy a year, offsetting nearly half of the plant’s energy demands.

The two separate solar fields feature a total of 539 sun-tracking stations, each supporting a string of 20315-watt panels. Each panel weighs nearly 60 pounds and generates up to 600kWh of electricity a year. The stations employ a tracking system that allows the panels to follow the sun’s path from east to west, producing 25 percent more power than fixed panels.

“By all indications, climate change is going to challenge our mission of providing reliable water to Southern California,” Kightlinger said. “Longer droughts, higher temperatures and decreased snowpack await us in the years and decades to come. So it only makes sense that Metropolitan would want to be part of the climate solution.”

The switch to solar will eliminate more than 1,900 tons of carbon dioxide every year, equivalent to the emissions produced by burning 2.1 million pounds of coal or powering 930 homes.

The La Verne solar project is the latest step in MWD move toward solar. The agency already has a 1-megawatt solar plant at its Robert A. Skinner Water Treatment Plant in southwest Riverside County and a 1/2-megawatt facility at Diamond Valley Lake Visitor Center in Hemet. A fourth solar installation is expected to launch next year at the district’s Joseph Jensen Water Treatment Plant in Granada Hills.

The $10.5 million solar plant in La Verne is expected to last 30 years.

“This is a smart investment. The retail electricity market is getting less predictable due to global resource competition and increased regulation of greenhouse gas emissions,” said Debra C. Man, Metropolitan’s assistant general manager and chief operating officer. “It makes sense for us to avoid that volatility by investing in a facility that will ultimately pay for itself. The solar plant will operate during peak-demand hours, when electricity costs are highest.”