BRYN MAWR, Pa.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Speaking before the Citi Climate Change and Water Conference today in London, England, Aqua America, Inc. (NYSE: WTR) Chairman and CEO Nicholas DeBenedictis said that the water-energy nexus will play a large role in future of the company with respect to environmental and business opportunities.
“Electricity is generally the largest expense of any public water utility, second only to labor. When you couple that with the fact that our business was created out of concern for the environment and public health, it makes perfect sense that water companies—particularly those in the private sector—would pursue sustainable clean energy sources, such as solar, as a complement to traditional power,” said DeBenedictis.
Aqua America’s largest subsidiary, Aqua Pennsylvania, built a 4.5 acre, 1.0 megawatt photovoltaic solar farm—one of the largest on the East coast--to power its Ingram’s Mill Water Treatment Plant in East Bradford Township, which serves drinking water to the West Chester, Pennsylvania area. The project has earned the company two awards: the Green Power: Turn it On! award from PennFuture as well as the Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence, which is presented each year by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to highlight the best in environmental innovation and expertise throughout the Commonwealth.
The Pennsylvania subsidiary has plans to build a similar solar facility at its Pickering water treatment complex—the largest among all of the company’s treatment facilities—located in Schuylkill Township, Chester County. Its New Jersey subsidiary is planning the construction of two solar facilities to power well stations in that state later this year. The new facilities are expected to produce 3 million kWh the first year and yield electricity expense savings of approximately $300,000.
DeBenedictis said the company is prepared to take a responsible and active role in what is becoming the next energy boom in Pennsylvania and some other states—natural gas drilling, particularly Marcellus Shale. He explained that shale drilling is a very water intensive business and has created significantly increased truck traffic, creating problems for small towns in the area of drilling operations. “Marcellus Shale has the potential to provide Pennsylvania with an economic boost well into the future if it’s done right environmentally,” said DeBenedictis.
“We are focusing on the ‘clean water’ aspects of the drilling business. Just as we do for our traditional customers, we are investing in the infrastructure necessary to provide water to the drillers in a responsible fashion. We are providing water filling stations in suitable locations to help move truck traffic out of towns and neighborhoods,” said DeBenedictis. The company has two stations currently in operation in the western part of the state and another scheduled to be open in that area in early summer. An additional station is currently open in the northeastern part of Pennsylvania, with two additional stations scheduled to open there this summer. DeBenedictis said the company will continue to pursue the water-energy nexus and is looking for other growth opportunities in the shale drilling industry, which is thought to be at the dawn of its life.
Aqua America reported record first quarter 2011 results of $30.4 million compared to $21.5 million in the same quarter of 2010, an increase of 41 percent and has increased net income for 11 straight years. The company’s June dividend payment reflects the 6.9 percent increase announced in August 2010 and is the 20th dividend increase in the last 19 years. Aqua has paid a consecutive quarterly dividend for more than 65 years.
Aqua America, Inc. is a publicly traded water and wastewater utility holding company with operating subsidiaries serving approximately 3 million people in Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina, Illinois, Texas, New Jersey, New York, Indiana, Florida, Virginia, Maine, Missouri, and Georgia. Aqua America is listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol WTR. Its largest subsidiary, Aqua Pennsylvania, serves approximately 1.4 million people in 30 counties throughout Pennsylvania.