In conjunction with the start up of its new membrane filtration facility, the Camden and Rockland Division of Aqua Maine has started construction of a combined solar thermal and photovoltaic energy system at the Mirror Lake facility to reduce purchased power consumption of its new membrane filtration facility.

The new $7.2 million membrane filtration facility, required under new EPA regulations, is now complete and operational at Mirror Lake in Rockport. This new facility uses more power to push water through the filters, and the microfiltration membranes must be periodically cleaned with heated water.

“While the original design of the facility included a large electric heater to warm water for the membrane cleaning process, we knew that this would be a perfect application for a solar thermal system to supplement or reduce the use of the electric heater,” said Rick Knowlton, vice president of operations, in a news release. “Almost 2,500 gallons of warm water will be needed every day, and the solar system being constructed should reduce our purchased electricity by 80,000 kWh every year. It’s one of the larger solar systems installed in Maine.”

In addition to the solar thermal system, photovoltaic panels are being installed on the roof of the filtration plant that will generate electricity on site that will be used to supplement the power needs of the new facility. The solar thermal and photovoltaic system has been designed and installed by ReVision Energy of Liberty and is expected to be operational by the end of August. The total capital cost of the solar thermal heating system and the photovoltaic panels is $145,000, which is then reduced by $41,250 through an Efficiency Maine grant. Power cost savings over the next 20 years are projected at $210,000. The financial benefits of the grant and the power savings have been passed on to the Camden and Rockland Division customers as part of the recent Maine Public Utilities Commission decision on rates.

The Camden and Rockland Division serves customers in the communities of Rockland, Rockport, Camden, Thomaston, Owls Head, Union and Warren and is one of 20 Maine water systems owned or operated by Aqua Maine.