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Council considers solar for sewer, water


 
BY CURTIS WINSTON
Contributing Writer
updated: 5/26/2022 4:09 PM

MARION -- The Marion City Council on Monday night approved, with conditions, a proposal to install solar-power arrays at the wastewater treatment plant and the water plant.

Under the proposal by Indianapolis-based Solential Energy, the company would charge 4.76 cents per kilowatt hour over 25 years, in order to recoup its costs, which include leasing the city land and installing the floating solar array.

Solential is working with Madison Energy Investments to fund the project, said Corey Miller, director of sales.

It was the second consecutive meeting in which the council discussed the rising cost of energy. Two weeks ago, the council approved a four-year electric utility contract with Constellation Energy at a rate of 9.67 cents per kilowatt-hour, reflecting the skyrocketing costs of power.

The systems would supply 100 percent of the plants' needs, Miller said. The panels have 25-year warranties, after which they would still provide 85 percent of capacity, he said. "There are no moving parts, so they tend to last."

The city's energy consultant, Mt. Vernon-based Affordable Gas and Electric (AGE), advised the city at the May 9 meeting that representatives would be back with better news.

"It's cheap power -- nothing up front," said AGE vice president for operations Ross Calliott.

Council members were wary of locking into the 4.67-cent rate for 25 years.

What if, for example, asked John Stoecklin, public property commissioner, the plants don't use all the power from the solar panels?

And Doug Patton, commissioner of accounts and finances, asked if what happens if the rate does drop. "I want the savings."

Miller explained that the investment in the project depends on selling 100 percent of the solar-panel power at the 4.76-cent rate.

Commissioner John Barwick asked what if the wastewater treatment plant had to expand -- could the solar be expanded as well.

Miller said the company could work with the city in that case.

Even so, the deal with Solential is yet to be finalized. Patton made a motion that the agreement with Solential be approved on the rate being 4.76 cents per kilowatt hour, and that the city attorney review the agreement for Mayor Mike Absher to sign off on. Commissioner Jim Webb seconded. The vote was 5-0.

In other energy business, the council approved 5-0 a $52,137 payment to Ameren Illinois to extend electric service to the new wastewater lift station on Golf Course Road, with a payback of $10,246 for power-usage sales.