Solar energy power production is coming to Wapakoneta.
Two executives from Westerville-based SolarVision Inc. addressed more than 100 people gathered Wednesday for the annual Public Power luncheon in the Wapakoneta Electric Department garage regarding the role solar energy will play in the city’s future.
“The solar industry is growing 60 percent in the United States per year — acceptance of solar power has happened, the tipping point has finally happened — people have accepted this as a form of alternative energy,” SolarVision President Greg Kuss told the Wapakoneta Daily News. “It is no longer alternative fuel for hippies from the 1970s, it is a conventional source of energy.”
To prove his point, Kuss noted American Electric Power (AEP) is devoting 80 acres in Wyandot County for a solar power field, and in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada, exists the world’s largest solar panel field on 1-square mile generating 100 megawatts of power.
Earlier this year, Wapakoneta City Council members approved a contract between the city of Wapakoneta and SolarVision Inc. to build a solar energy collection field near the city composting facility. A 20-acre field, which straddles a CSX rail line, with 12,000 solar panels is expected to generate 3.5 megawatts of electricity — enough electricity to power 300 homes in Wapakoneta. The city typically provides 24 to 28 megawatts of power to its customers throughout the day and 34 to 42 during peak times in the summer.
Kuss, who first discussed the project with Wapakoneta City Council members in January, said they will break ground on the project this year and he expects the facility to be generating power by early spring.
“This is about local power, local jobs and local taxes,” Kuss said. “This alternative form of energy is not in your face, you can hide it, it is the most benign source of electricity known to mankind.
“It’s time has come,” he said. “It’s prices have dropped like a rock and will continue to drop. There are some financial mechanism that have been created so there is no cost to the city of Wapakoneta — the only cost was the city law director looking over the contract.”
The solar power purchase agreement with SolarVision requires the city to purchase power at 6.75 cents per kilowatt hour for the first five years, 7 cents per kilowatt hour during the second five years and at fair market value for the final 10 years, not to be less than 7 cents per kilowatt hour.
SolarVision retains ownership of the panels and all rights to the “green attributes” of the solar power system. “Green attributes” are state credits which can be sold to companies which do not meet their production of renewable energy.
“People used to think that we follow the sun, and then people used to think we follow the money — we follow the legislation,” Kuss told the audience.
Senate Bill 221 requires Ohio energy companies to produce 12.5 percent of their power through renewable sources by 2025, with at least 0.5 percent coming from solar energy.
SolarVision Vice President of Construction Mike Dickman explained the solar panels are guaranteed for 25 years and they degrade at a rate of 0.5 percent per year so they will continue to provide at least 80 percent efficiency at the end of 20 years.
Dickman noted the system should pay for itself in seven years of service. The state and federal government are providing subsidies for the next five years.
Kuss said they are the only industry who will see their federal and state incentives disappear, unlike those for electricity and oil companies.
He noted he believes solar power is a source of energy that people want and it should benefit the city of Wapakoneta.
“I think there has truly been a pent up demand for someone to do something that is environmentally friendly in regard to the generation of electricity,” Kuss said. “This is a wonderful start. I have heard this will power 2 percent of 9,000 people in Wapakoneta and this is a great start and there could even be more after this.
“Locally, I think they also will benefit by a reduced rise in their electric rate,” he said. “This is more about the fact that the city of Wapakoneta has this as part of their energy mix and the people of this city are part of the answer.”