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Vernay is potential solar site

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At their Sept. 7 meeting, Village Council members took their first official step toward adding solar power to the Village energy portfolio when they unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance for an AMP solar energy subscription package.

“We all think this is a good idea,” said Council Vice-President Lori Askeland, who acted as president since Judith Hempfling was absent. The vote was 4–0, with Askeland, John Booth, Karen Wintrow and Rick Walkey voting in favor of the ordinance. Because the deadline for subscribing to the package is Oct. 31, Council will take its final vote on the project at its Sept. 20 meeting.

At the meeting, Village Manager Mark Cundiff stated that AMP’s business partner in the solar project, Standard Energy, has indicated interest in the vacant Dayton Street property owned by Vernay Laboratories as a possible solar site. While no meeting has taken place between Standard Energy and Vernay at this time, Vernay has indicated interest in talking further about the project, Cundiff said.

The Vernay site is the former home of the company’s manufacturing plant, which closed several years ago after Vernay manufacturing was relocated to plants in the south. Contributing to that move was the discovery of groundwater contamination on the site, which is currently being remediated with oversight by the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA.

The Vernay site is attractive to Standard Energy because the company was once the Village’s foremost user of electricity and the electrical infrastructure is still in place, Cundiff said.

Council members first discussed the AMP solar project at their last meeting, when they asked Cundiff to move ahead with an ordinance for entering into the contract. The new project is a partnership between AMP and Standard Energy, which is based in Virginia, for a 30-year project beginning in 2011 that will create 300 megawatts of solar energy. The cost of the power will be $85 per megawatt hour, or $.085 per kilowatt hour, which will increase 2 percent per year beginning in 2012.

As well as seeking subscribers to the solar energy package, AMP also sought sites for the project, and at the last Council meeting, Council expressed interest in providing a local site. However, the Village can pursue the solar package even if negotiations for a local solar site fall through, Cundiff said.

The Village suggested to AMP other potential local sites, including a portion of the Village-owned Glass Farm and the former “golf course” of Antioch College. However, Standard Energy officials did not have interest in those sites due to their distance from the electric substation, according to Cundiff, who said that, along with Vernay, Standard Energy has interest in another site that is owned privately.

Also at the Sept. 7 meeting, Wendell Ott of EnergyWize of Troy urged Council members to use local firms, rather than one based in Virginia, to install the solar project.

“We have plenty of talent here to do it,” Ott said.

While there is interest in local employment, the Village is a member of AMP and AMP is partnered with Standard Energy, Cundiff said, stating that “I’m not sure we’re in a position to dictate” who does the work on the project. Cundiff also emphasized that the Village is in the beginning stages of the project.

Wintrow invited Ott to submit a proposal to Council, although she stated she is “not inclined to hold up something that needs to go ahead in two weeks.”

Having both municipally-owned and privately-owned solar sites could be beneficial to the village, according to villager Christine Roberts.

Council first indicated interest in adding renewable energy to its portfolio two years ago, when it voted against signing on to a 50-year contract with an AMP coal plant in Meigs County. At the time, it was one of the first Ohio municipalities to reject the coal plant. Since that time, AMP killed the coal plant due to cost overruns and has added more renewable energy projects, including several Ohio River hydro projects that the Village has signed on to.

Other items of Sept. 7 Council business will be covered in next week’s News.

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