Power moves: Solar project concerns mayor

A solar project which will convert approximately 20 acres of city ground into megawatts of energy is expected to be completed sometime next spring, but one city administrator says he would like to see some progress made now.
“I would like to see it moving a little faster,” Mayor Rodney Metz said Sunday on the eve of Wapakoneta City Council’s first December meeting. “I would like to see the ground broke and I would like to some infrastructure going in at the site.”
He said he understands part of the delay is SolarVision Inc. officials must abide with a different set of rules and regulations regarding building permits and construction as well as convincing bankers to secure financing to move the project forward.
Despite the delays, the mayor said he still supports the project which could provide as much as 3.5 megawatts of electricity to the city through solar energy.
“At this point, I am still pretty positive about the project moving forward and I hope to find out more in the next week to 10 days how the project is proceeding and will proceed in the next year,” Metz said. “The main thrust of the entire project is financing and once they get the financing secured, which is part of the federal government side, then I think the project will move rather quickly.”
SolarVision Inc. officials signed a contract with the city to build a solar energy
collection field near the city composting facility. A 20-acre field, which straddles a CSX rail line, is expected to generate 3.5 megawatts of electricity — enough electricity to power 300 homes in Wapakoneta, from 12,000 solar panels.
SolarVision President Greg Kuss, who first discussed the project with Wapakoneta City Council members in January, said in October he expected to break ground on the project this year and he expects the facility to be generating power by early spring.
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 of a 20-year contract, not to be less than 7 cents per kilowatt hour.
The city has no expense in the project other than providing the ground. They can purchase the solar panels after 10 years. SolarVision also retains the green credits.
The SolarVision project is expected to be completed at nearly the same time the city completes its electric line conversion and electric substation replacements.
“At this point in time, we don’t have everything changed over but we are progressing quite well,” Metz said of the $13 million electrical reconstruction project which includes replacing three substations — Middle Street, Defiance Street and Harrison Street, or the downtown substation — as well as transformers and electrical lines in the city. “We are still running both substations at each the Middle Street and Harrison Street substations, so in regard to cost savings we have not been able to make the switch to the new substations where we will realize the savings.
“We have realized some savings at the city on electricity being transmitted to the city, but until we can convert to the new substations at all three locations we will not realize the entire savings we can,” the mayor said. “They are moving along quite well at the Defiance Street Substation and they are talking about having the substation completed in February and we will have the rest of the spring to convert the lines and transformers.”
He anticipates the entire project completed in late spring or early summer.
Wapakoneta City Council is scheduled to meet at 7:30 p.m. today in council chambers at the Wapakoneta City Administration Building, 701 Parlette Court.