Friday, April 25th, 2014

Pickerington looks at solar panels to power facilities

Pickerington has the opportunity to facilitate one of the largest solar panel projects in the state by a governmental entity.
 
During the Sept. 22 service committee meeting, the committee made a motion to authorize the city manager to write a letter of intent and to move forward in negotiations with Tipping Point Renewable Energy.
 
The negotiations are regarding the possibility of installing about five acres of solar panels that would power the citys water treatment facility and provide greener and less expensive power.
 
“Its a very exciting project, City Manager Bill Vance said.
 
If the project moves forward, Tipping Point estimates that the city could save more than $600,000 over the 20-year lifetime of the panels, said Greg Bachman, the city engineer.
 
Several other Central Ohio communities also have initiatives under way including Dublin, Powell, Worthington and Columbus, Tipping Point Renewable Energy CEO Eric Zimmer said.
 
The project would come at no cost to the city.
 
Tipping Point would finance the design and engineering of the project when it receives a letter of intent and if the project moves forward, it would also maintain the facility, Zimmer explained.
 
The facility itself would be owned by a group of third party investors, he added.
 
Tipping Point estimates the city would then be able to buy its power at 6 cents per kilowatt instead of its current rate of 7-1/2 cents per kilowatt, Bachman said.
 
Tipping Point is able to offer the energy at a lower cost because it sells the federal tax credit and renewable energy credits it receives to the third party investors, Zimmer said.
 
Governmental entities are not eligible for a tax credit and often arent inclined to take the risk that come with renewable energy credits, he said.
 
These types of transactions are the way that most government entities are able to procure this type of renewable energy, by using some type of third party agreement, he explained.
 
These projects arecapital intensive and most government entities dont have that kind of capital up front, he added.
 
If the project moves forward, the design and engineering of the project would take approximately 60 days, and from there, the installation could take approximately three to four months, Zimmer said.
 
The goal would be to have the panels installed in time for the prime solar months, he added.
 
Zimmer estimates the total cost of the project to be between $5 million and $6 million.
 
Once negotiations are complete, the issue will return to the committee and then to council for final approval.


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