Baldwin City Council signs non-binding letter of agreement with solar power company
Baldwin City may purchase electricity from a local solar array if an arrangement the Baldwin City Council moved forward Monday comes to fruition.
The council agreed to excute a letter of intent with Cromwell Environmental that could have longterm consequences on how the city purchases outside electrical power but which, for now, only commits the city not to enter into an agreement with another solar power contractor for a year.
Councilman Jason Mock, who leads the council’s utility sub-committee, said Cromwell would use the letter to seek financing for the construction of a solar array in Baldwin City by a third-party investor. Cromwell would then enter into a contract with the investor to run and maintain the array.
Should Cromwell find an investor and the array be built, the city would negotiate the purchase of power generated from the array, Mock said. After 20 years, the city would assume ownership of the solar panels.
Councilman Ken Wagner, who sits with Mock on the utility subcommittee, said approving the letter didn’t commit the council to any future agreement. He emphasized much would have to be put in place before the city committed to anything.
If Cromwell is successful in its investment search, the company and the city would study how a solar array would fit into the city’s power needs, Mock said. Also to be studied would be the cost of power from the solar array when the agreement was signed and annual cost increases.
Baldwin City Administrator Chris Lowe said also the site of the solar panels was to be determined. City sites were preferred, but other locations could be considered, he said.
With so much to be studied and then negotiated, there was little definitive to say about the amount of power the city would get from the source or its cost. Mock and Wagner said figures Cromwell shared suggested it would be somewhat more expensive than power from KCP&L — at least early in the 20-year agreement — but affordable.
As to what the array could mean for the city’s needs, Lowe said an array producing 1,000 kilowatts would supply power to 250 to 300 homes when generating.
Mock said the city would be contracted to buy power when the solar panels were generating electricity and would not have a financial obligation at night or during cloudy days when the array was not producing power.
In response to a question from the council about the worth to the city of the panels when a 20-year agreement ended, Lowe said solar panels were productive for 25 to 30 years.
Government regulations require the city to purchase part of its power from sustainable and clean sources. It was noted Monday that pressure to find more clean energy could increase from such steps as President Barack Obama’s order of the past week that power plants reduce emissions by 30 percent by 2020.
The purchase of power from a solar array could be a valuable augmentation for the city’s existing agreements to buy hydroelectric power and sources of clean energy, said Rob Culley, Baldwin City power plant manager.
In other business, the council:
• Was introduced to Anna Keena, the new Baldwin City clerk.
• Approved purchase of a new Vermeer trencher from Vermeer Great Plains of Olathe for $79,500 minus $14,500 earned from the trade-in of the city’s current trencher. The cost was less than the $70,000 earmarked for the purchase in the 2014 budget.
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