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Discussion on solar panels continues

By LAURA JAMESON

ljameson@lockhaven.com

LOCK HAVEN — Research into the use of solar panels at the city’s wastewater treatment plant are going to continue.

City council agreed to further discuss the possibility and hold off on signing a letter of intent with two solar energy companies.

The companies, IGS and RER Energy, attended a previous meeting and presented council with their proposed costs and savings.

Sel Edor, IGS Marketing Coordinator out of State College, proposed two Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) options both of which operate under a 30-year term.

Within each option are two choices for the city to consider.

The first two options consist of paying either 5.9 cents per kilowatt hour or 6.9 percent per kilowatt hour. However, IGS would claim the Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SREC), Edor said.

The second two options consist of the city paying either 7.4 cents per kilowatt hour or 8.2 percent per kilowatt hour to IGS. This is slightly more expensive because the city would retain the SREC, he continued.

Loretta Ottinger, Solar Project Developer for RER Energy Group presented a smaller number of solar array panels from her State College based company.

She estimated the panels RER proposes would produce approximately 3,441,871 kilowatts per hour annually which would offset 96 percent of the current usage at the sewer plant.

She also presented council with two buy-out options if council were to choose to purchase the panels at the end of a 6-year term.

If the SRECs are low, at the end of the 30-year life of the panels, the city could see a net savings of $4,509,450, Ottinger said.

If the SRECs are high, the city could see a savings of $4,601,880, she continued.

City Manager Gregory Wilson presented council with a spreadsheet that compared the costs of each company to the current cost through the city’s energy provider Constellation.

“Generally the city will not become more efficient over the years,” Wilson said. “(The sewer plant) is never going to use less centrifuge.”

But the use of solar panels could offset the overall cost, he continued.

Councilman Richard Morris felt that council should continue to look into other solar energy companies.

“I think that we ought to be looking for solar energy wherever we can,” he said.

Morris spoke about the uncertainty of the rates each company could provide over the 30 years, given that the cost of solar energy can fluctuate.

“Neither energy company can deliver a rate that Constellation can today,” he said.

Councilman Richard Conklin voiced his worry about forcing future generations into a contract.

“The agreement is an issue for me because it ties up another generation,” he said. “I’m not ready to tie us to a specific solar outlet to our overall city vision.”

Both Ottinger and Edor attended Monday night’s meeting and offered some feedback.

“I tried my best last time to show you the savings,” Ottinger said.

In the first few years the city could see a savings of $330,000, she said. She also explained that the solar renewable energy credits (SREC) could also help the city as well.

“Personally I have not the slightest interest in energy credits,” Morris responded. “I would prefer it transfer to a lower unit cost.”

Edor told council that, although they’d be entering into an agreement, they could still negotiate for a more cost effective plan.

“What we do when we sign a letter of intent… we put a lot of detail into it. We don’t want to risk our capital,” he said. “It’s absolutely a negotiation.”

Members of council were still wary to agree to either letters of intent.

“We’re cautious about the risk because it’s not our money we’re spending… it’s the tax payers’,” Morris explained.

“It’s a lot of risk to take when we’re not sure what the reward is,” Councilman William “Bill” Mincer agreed.

“I’m in favor of solar,” Councilman Steve Stevenson said. “But I don’t think we’re ready yet to make a decision.”

Wilson agreed with council’s cautiousness.

“I don’t think it’s prudent to jump to conclusions. But I do think it’s something that needs further discussion,” he said. “I understand the wheels of government turn slowly but I agree with councilman Morris. I think we need to continue discussion.”

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