Palisade opens water plant solar hookup for bids

A project to build a solar array that would power the town’s water treatment plant should be offered for competitive bid, Palisade town officials decided Tuesday.

The idea of building photovoltaic solar array at the plant, and tying the array into the Xcel Energy electricity grid, was first brought to the town in May by Carbondale-based Sunsense Solar. The company has more than 20 years’ experience and a number of projects in the Grand Valley, including a similar project with the city of Grand Junction.

Sunsense also secured a 10-cent per kilowatt hour buyback agreement with Xcel.

But town officials decided that the cost of the project required that there be a competitive bid process. The Board of Trustees on Tuesday night directed town staff to advertise for bids.

“We really appreciate the effort (Sunsense) has put forward in getting us interested in this, but we do have to follow our procedures and allow other people the same opportunity to give us proposals,” Town Administrator Rich Sales.

Solar companies that might be interested in submitting a bid for the project will be faced with a bit of a wrinkle: The Xcel program in which Sunsense secured a 10-cent per kilowatt buyback is no longer available. Programs accepted by Xcel now guarantee just 9 cents per kilowatt hour.

“Any new proposal would have to make up the one-cent difference in the cost of equipment and the installation to come in at a better price,” said Frank Watt, town public works director.

“That’s going to make it difficult for another company, because you’re going to have to come in at a lower price to be able to have the same payback for the town,” said Katharine Rushton, who works in commercial sales with Sunsense. She has shepherded the project from the beginning, and her company also shelled out $1,500 for an application fee with Xcel.

She added that she thought the town was “fortunate” that her company had secured the 10-cent incentive.

“Sunsense Solar had the foresight to come to the town and tell them about this opportunity, and without us doing that, there wouldn’t be a project,” she said.

As the contract is for 20 years, the one-cent difference between what Sunsense has secured and what other solar companies can presumably offer will affect the overall project numbers in a big way.

“In doing our due diligence, we’re going to look at all the rebate opportunities that are available at Xcel,” Sales said.

The town’s total project cost, as it is currently proposed, is $234,000.

Watt currently is putting together a request for qualifications, which is essentially the bidding process on the project. Ads will run in the newspaper, information will be on the town’s website and Watt will provide information to local solar companies about the possibility of submitting their own proposals.


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