Posted: Friday, November 22, 2013 12:01 am
City: Solar energy generation exceeding expectations
Ten months into the city using solar energy to power four of its buildings, city leaders are saying the results so far have exceeded their expectations.
Solar energy and energy efficiency steps taken in recent years have slashed the city’s annual energy bill by nearly $419,000, according to a report presented to City Council members earlier this month.
The two years compared are from July 2008 through June 2009 and from November 2012 through October 2013. The base 2008-2009 year was chosen because it was prior to the city undertaking energy conservation measures, said Steve Frost, senior business developer with Ameresco, which has consulted and advised the city on energy improvements.
The city had estimated the solar energy and energy efficiency upgrades would save $249,000 in the first year.
During the baseline year, the city paid nearly $1.7 million for its utility bill and during the most recent 12 month period through October, it paid $1.3 million.
“The project has far exceeded our expectations,” said Mayor Mark Nexsen on Thursday afternoon. The city has received double from its projected savings, he said.
And the November 2012 through October 2013 period only included roughly 10 months of solar generation with the city basically beginning to use the solar energy in January.
The results have turned out so well that city leaders could move to expand solar energy generation to wastewater treatment and water treatment, Nexsen said. He said he anticipated the city will formally consider that possibility in the immediate future, but didn’t offer a timetable.
Councilman Dean Barlow was nearly as pleased with the results so far, saying the original assumptions of savings are holding up well.
“I’m looking forward to the savings in future years,” Barlow said.
The solar energy system, including the solar energy panels and metal beams on the city property is not owned by the city. It’s owned by a third party, Lake Havasu City Solar, LLC, which was set up by and financially backed by LG International.
The city is buying energy from Lake Havasu City Solar, LLC at a fixed cost which is under the cost of what the city pays UniSource and the rate will increase no more than two percent each year for 20 years, city officials have said.
City officials have said they anticipate UniSource rates increasing more than two percent each year and since they locked in the rate with Lake Havasu City Solar, they expect to experience significant savings.
“(The solar project) didn’t cost taxpayers anything,” Frost said hammering home the point.
The solar panels themselves aren’t producing all of the city’s power. They are estimated to produce about 46 percent of the city’s annual energy requirement at the four buildings — the Aquatic Center, Police Department, City Hall and Public Works — according to the Ameresco report. The city purchases the rest of its energy from UniSource, like any other customer.
The Aquatic Center is estimated to generate the highest percentage of its energy usage from solar power, according to the report.
Solar panels at the city’s police department building have the ability to produce the most solar energy at any one time 364 kilowatt hours.
The report to the City Council also highlighted that nearly 80 percent of the contracted labor used to install the solar panels came from the Lake Havasu City area. New shaded parking for citizens is a benefit and solar power is environmentally friendly.
Energy efficiency measures the city has undertaken in recent years includes lighting retrofits, HVAC retrofits and computer power management among others.
Residents can view more details on this report and get more information on the project at an information kiosk inside City Hall.
You may contact the reporter at [email protected]
Friday, November 22, 2013 12:01 am.