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Council OKs solar project

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At their Sept. 20 meeting, Village Council members voted unanimously to participate in the Village’s first solar power energy package.

Council approved the final reading of a subscription package with American Municipal Power, or AMP, which has contracted with Standard Energy, Inc., to purchase up to 300 megawatts of solar energy. The Village share would be up to 810 kilowatts of solar energy, at a cost of about $85 per megawatt hour, or 8.5 cents per kilowatt hour. The contract, which begins in 2011, runs for 30 years, and costs will increase 2 percent per year beginning in 2012.

“This will diversify our power portfolio, and poses no financial risk if the power output is less than the planned 300 megawatts,” Village Manager Mark Cundiff wrote in a memo to Council.

Council has, since turning down an AMP contract for a new coal plant two years ago, sought more renewable energy sources. In that time, the Village has signed on to two new AMP hydro projects; last year, AMP canceled the coal plant due to cost overruns.

While solar energy is not considered dependable in this climate for base energy needs, it is an excellent provider for peak power needs in summer, according to the Cundiff memo.

At a previous meeting, Council members expressed interest in providing a site for the solar panels, which AMP is also seeking. Standard Energy has shown interest in the former Vernay plant site on Dayton Street, which is still owned by Vernay, since the site still has extensive infrastructure in place. While Vernay has expressed interest, no agreement has been reached, Cundiff said.

Two other local companies have also approached the Village with an interest in providing solar energy sites, according to Cundiff, who said the companies were EnergyWize of Troy and Lindstrom Sprague Mechanical Systems of Yellow Springs.

“There is interest out there from other folks to do more locally oriented projects,” Cundiff said.

In response to an inquiry from Cundiff, Standard Energy officials stated that they will not be using local persons to install the solar panels, should a site be located in Yellow Springs. Some local engineers could be involved in helping to prepare the site, according to Cundiff.

It’s not yet clear if solar energy will be cheaper than current electricity costs, Cundiff said, in response to a question from villager Jude Demers. Using the example of wind turbines, Cundiff said that initial costs from wind have dropped considerably due to improved technology, and the same could prove true of solar power.

“Your guess is as good as mine regarding what the cost of energy will be in 20 years,” Cundiff said.

In other Council business:

• Council unanimously adopted the final plan of the Yellow Springs and Miami Township visioning effort, which took place over the last year. The effort was funded with $50,000 from Council, $5,000 from the Township trustees, and grants from the Morgan Family Foundation and the Yellow Springs Foundation. The Columbus firm ACP Planning+Visioning led the visioning effort.

Council members did not discuss the plan, although villager Chris Roberts stated her disappointment with the results.

“I don’t think this could be any more bland than it is,” Roberts said, stating that what the plan recommends as actions are “all the things we were already doing before they came. The process became so bland it doesn’t say anything.”

The visioning plan can be accessed online at the Village Web site,

In a separate discussion, Council discussed how best to move ahead with the visioning plan. ACP leader Jamie Green had recommended that Council establish a task force with the charge of making sure that the plan moves forward, and Rick Walkey reported on a meeting between himself, visioning co-chairs Fred Bartenstein and Kathy Sanders and Chris Mucher of the Township Trustees to form a visioning stewardship committee. The group recommended that committee members serve two-year terms and be appointed jointly by Council and the Trustees. The group also felt that an individual’s strong interest in serving on the committee should outweigh specific credentials.

However, it’s important that group members represent organizations, since organizations will be involved in carrying out the visioning efforts, Karen Wintrow said. Without clear representation from community groups, “it will be another example of our spinning our wheels, with no one accountable,” she said.

Wintrow and Walkey agreed to speak with Green to get his guidance of how best to move ahead.

• Council unanimously approved a third reading of a new requirement for a permit for demolishing buildings.

• Villager Joan Edwards urged the Village to eliminate charging villagers for sewer use when they are using water to water gardens and trees, as they needed to do during this dry summer, because high water bills can be prohibitive.

“It’s in the public interest to encourage the watering of plants and trees,” she said, citing support from the Friendly Gardeners on the issue.

Council members said they will address the concern this winter, hopefully in time for next year’s gardening season.

• Council agreed to begin a discussion on its 2011 Village goals at its next meeting, Oct. 4, by looking closely at progress on the first three 2010 goals, to be followed by a discussion of the last three goals at the Oct. 18 meeting. Council will hold special meetings on the 2011 Village budget the last two Mondays of November.

• Council’s next regular meeting is Monday, Oct. 4, at 7 p.m. at Council chambers.

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