The Dolores Town Board heard a proposal from Shaw Solar to install and operate solar panels on municipal buildings to reduce energy costs.
Three buildings proposed for the panels are Town Hall, the town public works shop, and the wastewater treatment facility.
According to the proposal, Shaw Solar would buy, install and maintain the solar panels at no cost to the town under a 25-year power-purchase lease agreement, said Mike Ellis, operations and finance manager for Shaw Solar.
The solar power would be sold to the town at a fixed rate over the 25 years, representing an energy savings of about 3 percent per year. The panels are warrantied for 25 years.
“Our proposition is to fix your cost of energy at today’s rate, so you avoid the annual Empire Electric rate increases that average about 3% per year,” Ellis said.
The lease system allows Shaw Solar to take advantage of a 26% federal solar tax credit and depreciation not available for municipalities.
Under the leasing model, Shaw Solar has installed solar electrical power systems for Cortez Sanitation District, the city of Cortez, two schools in Durango and the Bayfield Public Library. Montezuma County is also planning to install solar panels on county buildings under a lease agreement with Shaw.
“We have a good track record for these types of projects. The equipment is very robust, and we have experienced staff for the maintenance,” Ellis said.
During the 25-year lease, the solar arrays would generate estimated energy savings of $140,000 for the sewer plant, $78,000 for the public works shop, and $17,000 for Town Hall.
The buildings with the solar panels would still be tied into Empire Electric service grid, and continue to have reliable power.
Solar panels would be tied to the specific facilities and operate under net metering. Solar power generated in excess is pushed back to the Empire grid and is credited for use later.
The solar project would significantly reduce energy costs of electric pumps that are continuously operating at the wastewater treatment plant, said public works manager Randy McGuire.
Under the lease agreement, the town would have a buy out option of the solar systems in year six of the lease, which would further increase town energy savings. Under the buy out, the town has the option of entering into an operations and maintenance contract with Shaw, or can seek a contract with another solar company.