Ashland Must Go (Partially) Solar by 2020
Progress on the 10×20 Project?
Interviewer: What is 10×20’s biggest challenge?
Friend: I would say it is institutional. Time is of the essence considering favorable tax treatment will begin to decline in 2020 under current law. Remember that our ordinance was passed in August and we are now 6 months in without a request for proposal issued to interested investors. Once a final design is complete and all rights of way, environmental accommodations are made, costs finally resolved and permits and a power purchase contract is in place, it can be expected to take up to 18 months to activate a project of this scale.
As we speak, the City Staff seems to be stepping up with plans for an environmental review of the proposed site and technical evaluation of effects on our internal electrical distribution system. The results of this work will very definitely improve the quality of our RFP and presumably reduce the eventual rate quotes from proposers.
Interviewer: So, what is 10×20’s next step?
Friend: Well I think you are hearing it. In terms of physical implementation though, the City has settled on a strategy of sending out a request for proposals from vendors that would build and possibly operate a solar farm on our behalf. These vendors would do the financing, design, construction and possibly operate the project for a period of time, commonly 20 to 30 years. The land (Imperatrice) would be leased to the vendor and at the end of the lease, the project improvements would be claimed by the City,.
The City Council and Mayor have narrowed the focus to consider only solar. Currently the City’s request for proposals is solely targeted to development on the Imperatrice property.
Interviewer: What is the next step?
Friend: The next step is a request for proposals to be issued to interested and qualified investors.
Interviewer: What are some of the issues that need resolution.
Friend: There are several and this is not a complete list:
- Securing the proper zoning for the Imperatrice since it is in the County.
- Resolving the land use of the site (sparrows, recreation and other possible City uses).
- Identifying and securing the rights of way in the County and across Interstate 5 to transmit the power into the City.
- Identifying improvements required within the City’s substations and distribution system.
- The BPA contract.
Interviewer: I know you have been a strong advocate of securing the services of a dedicated in-house or contract project manager to move the project ahead. Has the City made such a hire?
Friend: The City chose to rely on existing in-house personnel to prepare an RFP and leave the details, some of which are identified above, to a successful offeror in response to the RFP. I should say here that I was very concerned that the City could wind up overpaying for this power or failing to move ahead with it because there are so many significant unanswered questions. Those questions must be mitigated by offerors in their rates. As we speak, though, I believe the City Staff is stepping up to minimize the lack of definition of the project so offerors will have more definitive guidance which should make proposals more rate-realistic.
Interviewer: How do you feel about progress?
Friend: Well I have been disappointed but I am becoming much more optimistic. The City Staff with encouragement from the Mayor and the leadership from the Electrical Department are actively attacking the problem. An RFP for a power purchase agreement is underway, including defining environmental, institutional and technical challenges so proposers will be better able to respond without unnecessary contingencies that would increase the rates they could offer.
Interviewer: Is there some kind of assistance citizens could give to the city that would help the Council?
Friend: I would encourage citizens to get involved in City government and collectively urge it to be what we would have it be. At times that includes holding our public officials accountable for carrying through on their responsibilities to the citizens they serve. While progress to date has been disappointing to me personally my expectations were probably unrealistic. Action seems now to be underway and a detailed draft schedule is in preparation. Watch this space.
Friends of 10×20
To read Part 1 Go to Category: Civic Action