Solar generation

Managing Editor
Starting today, the city of Wapakoneta should benefit from the 11,500 solar panels aimed at the sun.
Wapakoneta Safety-Service Director Bill Rains announced Monday the solar field should be connected to the city’s electric grid today and generating a nameplate of 3 megawatts of power for the city and its electric consumers.
“In regard to the solar farm, we will be making the hook-up tomorrow,” Rains told Wapakoneta City Council members during Monday’s meeting. “The GE (General Electric) people will be in to set up the relays, the Vaughn Industries people will be in to make the final connections and we should, on the second hottest day of the year, be able to receive the benefit of a day’s worth of solar power.”
Rains explained to councilors Monday the most important benefit is the solar field produces the most power on days the city is likely to need peak demand power, which is the most expensive power to purchase on the open market. Peak demand power is electricity purchased in excess of typical electric usage.
The city typically uses approximately 32 megawatts, but it can peak at 40 to 42 megawatts with peaking demand power anything normally above 39 megawatts for Wapakoneta, which is a municipal power. It occurs most often during the day in the summer when industries are in operation and air conditioning is drawing power for business and home usage.
Rains explained the city and Solar Planet each have meters on the solar field to determine the amount of energy generated from the 11,500 solar panels in the solar field along Wapak Cridersville Road and north of the Wapakoneta Composting facility.
“We also intend to be able to post the amount of energy the solar field is generating on the city’s web site,” Rains said.
The solar field, which was built by Solar Planet on approximately 10 acres, should generate 3 megawatts of electric power, which would generate approximately 700,000 kilowatts of power at peak. The city is contracted to pay 7 cents per kilowatt hour from the solar field. At present, the city pays less than 7 cents per kilowatt on the open market and more during peak demand periods.
The city has the option to purchase the solar field after 10 years.
Solar Planet took over the project from Solar Vision, also of Columbus, in 2011 when Solar Vision could not obtain the necessary funds to develop the field.
Solar Planet officials wanted the field installed by the end of 2012, but some problems existed with connecting the solar panel field to the city.
The city and Solar Planet shared the $248,000 cost to connect the system to the city’s electric grid. The city paid approximately $125,000 and Rains said they reduced the cost by having city crews perform some of the work.
The power is connected to the city at the Defiance Street Substation, which was built with a special hook-up for solar power when it was reconstructed in 2011.
Mayor Rodney Metz and Rains said a special celebration of the project is being planned.
Rains said the project will help in determining the future of power generation for the city.
“We need to look at our entire electric portfolio,” Rains said. “We have this and we have several other hydroelectric projects in the works and they will be coming online in 2014 and 2015.
“We certainly have to look at our entire electric power portfolio, but as our load grows it would not be a bad thing to have a little more solar since it creates the most energy when our demand is highest,” he said. “We will just have to wait and see how this all works out.”