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Solar project elicits interest

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At the Aug. 16 Village Council meeting Village leaders expressed enthusiasm for a new American Municipal Power, or AMP, solar energy subscription package, and asked Village Manager Mark Cundiff to prepare an ordinance to enable the Village to sign on to the project.

Because the AMP subscription deadline is Oct. 31, Council needs to vote on the ordinance’s first reading at its Sept. 7 meeting and the second reading on Sept. 20, according to Cundiff, who said he needs the extra time for the ordinance to become effective. According to AMP representative Eric Lloyd at the meeting, subscribing to the project does not commit the Village to costs should the project fall through.

AMP is also seeking sites for the solar project, and Council members expressed interest in providing a site in Yellow Springs.

While the project includes some unknowns, Council members felt the appeal of adding solar energy to the Village energy portfolio outweighs some uncertainty. Solar energy would be especially useful in meeting Village peak electric needs during hot summer months, since solar panels capture the most energy in sunny weather, Cundiff said.

“Sometimes we have to take a gamble and this one is worth investing in,” said Council member Lori Askeland.

AMP has recommended that the Village subscribe to up to 810 kilowatts, or about 4 percent of local electric needs, although the Village may choose to subscribe to more energy or less, according to Cundiff. The contract for the new program, which aims to produce 300 megawatts altogether, begins in 2011 and runs for 30 years, with the initial cost of power $85 per megawatt hour, or 8.5 cents per kilowatt hour, increasing 2 percent per year beginning in 2012, Lloyd said. The solar project should be operable by 2015, according to information from AMP.

In 2008 Council, for environmental reasons, voted against signing on to a new AMP Meigs County coal plant and stated its intent to seek more renewable sources for local energy needs. Since that time AMP has canceled the Meigs County plant due to cost overruns and has added more renewable energy sources, including hydro, wind and now solar power, to its projects.

The program is AMP’s first solar project, and is in collaboration with Standard Energy, Inc., which will own the solar sites that will be interconnected to AMP member electric systems.

Criteria for selecting solar sites include a preference for sites that provide access for solar equipment delivery and maintenance, access to interconnection points, minimal environmental concerns, zoning of industrial or light industrial and unobstructed access to the sun, Lloyd said. Cundiff suggested that the Glass Farm or Antioch College golf course might be solar site possibilities, although Council members Judith Hempfling and Karen Wintrow expressed concerns about locating a solar site on land that could be used for residential development.

“I want to be mindful of making good choices regarding land use,” Wintrow said.

Council will vote on the first reading of the solar project ordinance at its Sept. 7 meeting.

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