County weighs joining solar complex
The fate of a proposed solar panel subscription project at 2930 D 1/4 Road will be determined by the end of next week. Whether Mesa County will sign on as a subscriber to the project, though, is a fate that may take weeks to determine.
Mesa County commissioners discussed the project Wednesday morning with project developer Bill Brick of San Francisco-based solar development company Ecoplexus and School District 51 Resource Conservation Manager Eric Anderson. Ecoplexus plans to lease about 10 acres of District 51 land on D 1/4 Road and build and operate a solar array on the property. At least 10 participants would have to subscribe to the solar array in order for it to be a feasible project, according to Brick. Subscribers would pay for the subscription by funneling renewable energy credits from Xcel to Ecoplexus.
Brick told commissioners the project won’t happen if District 51 School Board members fail to approve a resolution to become subscribers by the end of the day Jan. 31. The district would be the project’s biggest subscriber, with 40 percent of the kilowatt hours produced by the project going to them. Mesa County, the city of Grand Junction, Grand Junction Housing Authority and five low-income subscribers brought forward by the housing authority are expected to be the other subscribers but Brick said they have more time than the district as minor subscribers to figure out a subscription agreement.
Commissioner Rose Pugliese said it may be March before the board decides whether the county will subscribe to the project so they have more time to discuss the possibility.
Commissioner Steve Acquafresca said the board “has some studying to do.” He said it will take some time for the county to see a financial benefit from the project. The county will receive little or no cost savings from the project if energy rate inflation is low over the life of the subscription agreement, Acquafresca said, but he believes energy costs will increase over the next few years.
Brick said if commissioners decide not to subscribe to the project it will not likely kill the project but will leave Ecoplexus with the duty of finding another subscriber. The county’s proposed subscription would give them a 27 percent share of energy produced by the project.
If the county does subscribe, Assistant County Attorney David Frankel told commissioners they would have the discretion to fund the agreement in each annual budget. If the project fell through, the county would default to paying regular electricity rates.