HUDSON — The city is looking to increase its solar power portfolio, a move which is expected to decrease energy costs and increase the amount of renewable energy used.
City Council is expected to vote on Tuesday on legislation for the city to enter a 25-year solar power purchase agreement and property easement agreement with Hudson Shines LLC in conjunction with the company building a solar panel system on approximately 15 acres of city-owned land at 996 Hines Hill Road. The site is in the northwest part of the city, just north of the Ohio Turnpike.
“This is a good thing for the city,” said Jody Roberts, the city’s communications manager. “It helps us increase the renewable energy in our portfolio at less cost than it would cost to purchase it on the grid.”
Hudson Shines LLC is planning to design, construct, own and operate a 2 megawatt solar panel system on Hines Hill Road and then sell the energy to the city, according to city officials. Hudson Shines LLC will own and operate the system, which will be interconnected with Hudson Public Power’s electric grid.
Hudson Shines LLC was formed by both Depcom Power and Better Together Solar for this project, according to Roberts. She said Depcom is financing the project, while Better Together Solar will operate and maintain the solar panel site.
Hudson Public Power will be the only entity purchasing the solar energy from Hudson Shines LLC, according to Roberts. She said 20 percent of the energy purchased by Hudson Public Power comes from renewable sources such as natural gas, as well as solar, wind and hydro power.
Roberts said the project will reduce HPP’s purchase costs and that savings will be passed on to HPP customers. She did not have a figure as to how much the customer savings would be because it depends on the size of the facility, how much energy is generated and the purchase price, which also has not been finalized.
Roberts said there would be a direct savings to the city — also not yet known — because HPP would not pay for generation fees, capacity fees and transition costs.
Roberts emphasized that the endeavor is a “win-win” for the city because of the energy cost savings and because the city does not have any upfront expense in connection with the project.
Roberts said Hudson Shines LLC wants to move forward on construction “relatively soon.” The project would have to be approved by the planning commission, she said.
Frank Comeriato, one of the city’s assistant managers, said the endeavor is a “private project,” and the companies will be submitting a plan to the city to build the solar panel park.
“We think it’s a pretty innovative way to bring on local businesses in a partnership to develop the project,” stated Comeriato.
Comeriato added Depcom would be liable if the project does not work out.
“They take all the risk because they’re the lead company,” said Comeriato. “John [Courtney, the city’s power consultant] and I think it’s going to be a great project. We’re excited about it.”
At a Sept. 4 meeting, Councilmember Casey Weinstein made a motion to suspend the rules to bypass the final reading in an effort to pass the agreements that night, but the motion failed after Councilmembers Dennis Hanink and Alex Kelemen voted “no.” The overall vote was 4-2 to suspend the rules, but Mayor David Basil noted that five affirmative votes are needed to suspend the rules.
Hanink said council had discussed the proposed deal earlier in the meeting.
“Questions were raised by council regarding the structure and viability of the company that would build, operate and own the facility and the city’s risk in the venture,” said Hanink. “Council requested that staff provide the legal documents which we did not have. It seemed to me strange that we were rushing to a vote prior to having the opportunity to review the documents.”
Wilshire Park Drive resident Dr. Joseph D. Ortiz said he thought the plan to put in a solar panel system was “an excellent idea.”
“There’s need for a transition from fossil fuels to renewables,” said Ortiz. “And this would provide a means of putting 2 megawatts of power to operate locally within the city control, which will help to alleviate peak loads during high use times.”
Ortiz says solar energy costs are “very competitive” with fossil fuel costs. Ortiz said he performed a study that found a contract for 100 percent renewable energy can be purchased at 6.9 cents per kilowatt hour, while a contract for 100 percent fossil fuels can be acquired at 6.23 cents per kilowatt hour.
“The benefits that we get ecologically, environmentally, really make sense,” said Ortiz.
City Manager Jane Howington said the solar project had gone through “a very long due diligence process,” and said the city attorney has reviewed the documents to ensure “the city is protected” in terms of liability.
Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.