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updated: 11/13/2013 5:28 PM

Geneva inclined to approve solar-energy installation, contract

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Geneva may buy a limited amount of power produced by solar energy, under a plan proposed by a private company.

The city council Monday, as a committee of the whole, voted 9-0 to have city workers and the mayor continue pursuing the plan with Convergence Energy, which would install a 650-panel solar array on city land at the site of a substation and the Geneva Generation Facility off Averill Road.

Private investors would pay to install and operate the panels. The city would agree to buy the electricity generated, for 13 cents per kilowatt hour, for 25 years, at a cost of $854,750. At the end of the 25 years, the panels would be sold to the city.

The purchase of the solar-generated power would fit in with the council's goal of having the city use more "green" power. And it could set up a plan for interested utility customers to pay that rate, which is higher than the current rate of 11.5 cents the city charges, for the right to claim they are using "green" energy. Convergence Energy estimates the panels would generate enough electricity for 18 to 24 houses.

It would cost about $650,000 to install the panels, but part of that would be paid for by a $153,500 grant from the state department of commerce and economic opportunity, said Steve Johnson, vice president of business development for the Wisconsin-based firm.

In May, the city rejected a state grant, for which it would have had to provide matching money, to install a solar-panel array at Prairie Green Preserve off Peck Road. Aldermen said such a panel was inappropriate for the preserve, which residents voted to buy to provide open space and stormwater mitigation.

"I just about died when I heard you were giving it (the DCEO grant) back," Johnson told council members. Convergence then approached DCEO about getting part of the grant for itself.

The Averill Road site is in an industrial area.

"It is my opinion that this will be very palpable, and palatable, to a lot of folks," Mayor Kevin Burns said.

Johnson said the state will hold the grant through the end of the month, and so he wants the council to decide the matter in the next week or two. If approved, it could begin the project in December for investors' tax purposes. It would install the panels in April and May, and aim to produce electricity by mid-June.

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