Village Council

Solar project moves forward

At their last meeting, Village Council members came close to backing away from a proposed solar farm in the village, due to pressure to make decisions more quickly than felt comfortable. But that changed at their April 4 meeting, after Council heard from an energy expert from the Dayton Development Coalition, along with several villagers, who urged Council to take advantage of an opportunity for green energy that may not be available for long.

“I’m hearing citizens saying loud and clear that we need to move forward to make this work,” Lori Askeland said, stating that she was leaning in support of the project.

After an hour-long discussion on the solar farm, Council voted 5–0 to request that Village Manager Mark Cundiff bring to Council’s April 18 meeting an ordinance for the solar project. Council members stated they want to be ready to vote on the project at that meeting if outstanding questions on the solar farm are answered satisfactorily by that time. If Council votes favorably at that meeting, the project could still move ahead by May, which is the deadline set by the project’s backers.

The solar proposal, whose backers are MeLink of Milford, SolarVision of Westerville and Yellow Springs Renewable Energy, would produce about 2 megawatts of solar energy on some as-yet-unspecified 12-acre site in the village. The Village would be required to provide the land and a 20-year agreement to purchase power at, for the first 10 years, $.07 per kilowatt hour. That price is comparable to the Village’s current electricity fee per kilowatt hour, but is lower than the actual price that villagers pay, since AMP, the Village’s municipal electric supplier, adds on a variable power purchase fee each month.

In return, the Village would receive an upfront payment of about $400,000, and an agreement that MeLink and SolarVision would maintain and operate the solar project. And the Village would also be adding more renewable energy to its portfolio, which is in line with the goal Council set several years ago when Yellow Springs was one of the only Ohio municipalities to turn down AMP’s plan for a new coal plant.

“This could be an economic tool, lending the image of Yellow Springs as a green community,” said villager Deborah Shaw, who urged Council to take “quick and decisive action” on the project in which she saw “no downside risk and a great opportunity.”

Byron Dann reminded Council members that during the previous Council coal plant discussion he’d said he didn’t want to own coal for the next 50 years. But he supports solar, Dann said, stating, “I’d be glad to own solar power for the next 20 years.”

Chris Meyer, the director of energy programs of the Dayton Development Coalition, also urged Council members to move quickly if they are interested in solar power, due to the time-limited nature of current federal financial incentives, which require the project be finished by the end of this year.

“Waiting is not a good thing if this is a do-able project,” he said, stating that “you’re not going to find a lot of money available in the ways it has been.”

According to Meyer, the three firms involved in the Yellow Springs project are “three of the most reputable firms in Ohio” in solar energy production.

However, significant questions still need to be answered, according to Cundiff, Council members and Village Solicitor John Chambers.

After reviewing the contract for the project, Chambers pronounced it basically sound, but stated that the solar backers need to be willing to negotiate some points. He also emphasized that those with more technical knowledge of the solar industry need to review the project.

That review is taking place, according to Cundiff, who said that Courtney and Associates, a firm already on retainer with the Village for different electrical needs, has agreed to review the proposal by April 18. A load flow study will also be complete by that date, which will provide information on how the solar project would fit with the Village’s current electric system, Cundiff said.

The final question regards where to locate the project, if it’s approved. While at the last meeting Council members leaned toward the Fogg Farm property on the western edge of the village due to not wanting to tie up Village-owned land, on Monday Askeland stated that she’s shifting support to the Village-owned Glass Farm. With the Village’s current economic difficulties, it makes sense to use land that requires no payment, and make use of the extra income for other Village needs, she said.

Cundiff said an appraiser is currently working on an appraisal for the Fogg Farm, whose anonymous owners had indicated interest in siting the solar project there. If it chooses to purchase that site, Council has stated that it could use the upfront payment for the project to buy the land.

See the April 15 News for other items of Council business.

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