Solar array may be stellar way to save money

City expects project will trim its electricity costs

Grand Junction city councilors signaled their approval this week for a solar array that is expected to save the city money on the cost of purchasing electricity.

The city believes it will save nearly $33,000 a year for an estimated 20 years in purchasing electricity at a reduced rate from a solar project slated for about 10 acres of School District 51 land at 2930 D 1/4 Road.

San Francisco-based Ecoplexus was approved last year to participate in Xcel’s Solar Rewards program.

Ecoplexus will build a network of solar panels on the site, generate electricity and sell it to Xcel. Xcel will sell the energy created by the 2-megawatt plant at a discounted rate to at least 10 subscribers, including the city, District 51, Mesa County and the Grand Junction Housing Authority.

The project initially was intended to straddle land owned by the city and District 51. However, project developers determined the solar panels could all be placed on the school district’s land. Access to the site requires crossing the city-owned land.

City councilors questioned whether involvement in the project violates terms of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. City Attorney John Shaver said it did not, explaining the city normally budgets for purchasing electricity, and this agreement was about purchasing energy at a reduced rate. Councilors also questioned the risks to the city.

“What happens if Ecoplexus builds this thing and walks?” questioned Councilor Duncan McArthur.

“From our perspective, that’s the school district’s problem,” Shaver replied. “If the tax credit goes away, the worst thing that could happen is the city would pay market rate for electricity.”

Xcel has a $200,000 deposit from Ecoplexus to clean up the site, if the project fails.

Ecoplexus project developer Bill Brick said the panels do not generate noise.

District 51 school board members are expected to take up the issue soon.

If approved, construction on the project is expected to begin late next week.


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