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Village moves toward use of renewables for energy

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The Village of Yellow Springs is having some successs finding alternative energy sources to provide electricity to village residents and businesses, according to Village Manager Mark Cundiff in a discussion with Council at its May 3 meeting.

The discussion was prompted by Council’s approval of the first reading of an ordinance that enables Cundiff to enter into a contract with AMP, the municipal cooperative that supplies Village electricity. The contract allows the Village to purchase electricity at locked-in prices for a two-year period, 2012 and 2013, during which time the Village will be shifting away from coal and toward using more renewable energy sources. Council will vote on the final reading of the ordinance at its next meeting.

In 2012 several current Village contracts with AMP will end, including one with the Gorsuch coal plant, which AMP is closing down. While AMP will still have an Illinois coal plant online, it is trying to move away from coal and toward renewable energy sources, according to Cundiff in an interview last week. A plan to construct a new coal plant on the Ohio River was cancelled this year after costs rose too high and many communities chose not to take part for environmental reasons. Yellow Springs was one of the first communities to choose not to sign on to that plant.

“The Village direction is clear,” Cundiff said. “We want renewables to be as much of our portfolio as we can get, at decent prices.”

Currently, the Village uses about 32,000 megawatt hours in electricity annually. It receives about a third of that amount from the Gorsuch coal plant, about a quarter  from an AMP landfill gas project and smaller amounts from contracts with Cinergy, DPL and a hydro project at the Niagra Falls. The landfill gas and Gorsuch projects will end in 2012 and 2013, which will result in a gap of several years until three new AMP projects come online.

Those new projects are hydro plants on the Ohio River, which are slated to provide about half of Village electric needs beginning in 2015. Council approved signing on to those projects several months ago.

The ordinance that Council approved at its May 3 meeting allows the Village to purchase the power from AMP at locked-in prices, rather than the higher prices of the open market. It’s not clear what the source of that electricity will be, but it will likely come from coal sources, Cundiff said in the interview.

However, AMP continues to explore new renewable sources, including solar power produced in Virginia and adding new wind turbines to a project in Bowling Green. If it does so, Yellow Springs will have the option of signing on for wind power, and may also sign on for solar. While wind and solar do not provide power consistent enough for base power use, those sources are appropriate for peak electric use, such as in summer months, Cundiff said.

The Village will continue to look toward alternative energy, according to Cundiff.

“We’re looking at whatever renewables we can get at a decent deal,” he said.

In other Council business:

Council heard a report from Village Assistant Planner Ed Amrhein on the status of the Northern Gateway project.

In the planning stages for almost six years, the project aims to enhance the trailhead of the bikepath at the northern edge of the village, improving the northern entrance to town. The project began several years ago with a committee of concerned citizens who envisioned the project and won a grant for 70 percent of the production costs, or up to $275,000, from the Ohio Department of Transportation, or ODOT.

The remaining cost to the Village would be about $130,000, and Council has determined that amount is too high to move ahead with the project. However, for the past several years Amrhein has applied for another federal grant for about $110,000, which would leave the Village to pay about $30,000 out of a total of about $400,000.

Last winter, Amrhein discovered that a timing snafu between the two grants had led to the Village being turned down for the second grant, so he applied again after conferring with grant officials. The Village will find out if it will receive the second federal grant in August.

The Northern Gateway project has several components, including turning part of a Cemetery Street plot of Village-owned land into a new parking lot and constructing a new 900-foot bikepath spur to connect that parking lot with the bikepath. The project also includes constructing a scenic overlook over an existing culvert that spans the stream near the Bryan Center, improvements to the Bryan Center parking lot, and changes in the Dayton Street/Xenia Avenue intersection designed to slow down traffic at that corner.

Overall, the project aims to make coming to Yellow Springs more attractive for visitors who want to use the bikepath, partly by adding more parking and making the path more accessible, Amrhein said.

• The Village community gardens have been plowed and are ready for planting, according to Environmental Commission member Doug Bailey, who presented an update on the gardens to Council. About 35 villagers have signed up for the garden plots, which will be located at Bill Duncan Park, the Glass Farm and at Fair Acres on the north edge of town. No other plots are available this year, Bailey said.

• Council heard a report on the Yellow Springs Library from Head Librarian Connie Collett. The Greene County Library system was recently honored as one of the top 10 libraries of those in its class throughout the country, according to Collett. Use of the local library, in terms of books, DVDs, events and computer use, continues to grow, Collett said.

• Council approved the closing of several village streets for two upcoming bike races. The Yellow Springs Criterium, to take place Friday, May 21, at 6 p.m., will require the closing of segments of Limestone, Phillips, Elm and Walnut Streets and all of Short Street, between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. on that date. Corry Street between Limestone Street and Xenia Avenue will be closed on May 22 from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for the Tour of Greene County, a road race that begins and ends in the village.

• Villager Christine Roberts apologized to Council for what she described as her disruptive behavior at the previous meeting. The disruption was sparked by her frustration as a member of several Village committees where she feels that race is unduly emphasized, Roberts said.

“If you want to set the best policies, the color of a person’s skin shouldn’t matter,” she said.

Council member Lori Askeland disagreed, stating that while ignoring issues of race may be the ideal approach, it does not reflect the realities of American society.

“In this world, race does matter,” Askeland said. “Race is a problem in our culture, and we sometimes need to talk about it.”

• Council’s next regular meeting is Monday, May 17, at 7 p.m. in Council chambers.

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