Cleveland wants to hire vendor to own and operate rooftop solar systems on city-owned buildings
CLEVELAND, Ohio – A Cleveland City Council committee declined Tuesday to immediately approve a proposal by Mayor Frank Jackson’s administration to hire a vendor to install solar panels atop several city-owned buildings.
Members of the Planning, Development and Sustainability Committee told Chief of Sustainability Jason Wood that they want to hear more, including whether the project makes economic sense, before signing off.
Committee Chair Tony Brancatelli said after the meeting that he expects council will ultimately amend the administration’s request to either impose a cost limit on the contract with the vendor or a requirement that the contract come back to the council for approval once it is negotiated.
As proposed, the vendor would design, build and operate several roof-top solar systems for up to 25 years as part of the administration’s goal of greatly reducing the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
The vendor would pay all the costs of construction, operation and maintenance, and the city would pay for the electricity generated at a negotiated rate that allows the vendor to recover its investment.
Wood said he expects that rate to be comparable to, if not a little lower than, what the city is paying either city-owned Cleveland Public Power or FirstEnergy, but the actual rate will be negotiated with the vendor.
The overall cost of the installations, which the vendor would finance, would not exceed more than $4 or $5 million, Anand Natarajan, the city’s energy manager, told the committee.
Wood said the city believes the strategy being proposed makes more sense than actually owning and maintaining the solar systems. He said the city wants to see how the technology works, including the addition of battery storage at some of the recreation centers that are
That wasn’t assurance enough for several of the committee members. They have asked city officials to provide more information, including the price the city pays now for electricity and why it wouldn’t make more sense to own the solar installations rather than farming them out to a contractor.
The administration has identified 15 possible sites, including water treatment plants and recreation centers, but Wood said he doesn’t expect all of them will have arrays constructed on their rooftops. He said the total amount of electricity that could be generated would be enough to power 738 homes.
The electricity provided by each solar array would reduce the amount of electricity each building would then have to buy. The electricity would be generated “behind the meter” so there would be no excess power that could be sold back to the utility.
“There is always a little bit of uncertainty until we complete the full detailed design, but our hope and our belief is that [the solar prices] will be at worst comparable if not a little bit lower than electric prices we are getting currently,” Wood said.
Woods said the primary goal is to generate renewable energy and to further the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by the city, although creating clean energy jobs and accessing cheaper energy are also part of the equation.
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