Company pitches solar farm to Nixa
February 10, 2014
Company pitches solar farm to Nixa
25-year agreement could lower city's utility costs, official says
Nixa could become home to Missouri’s largest solar power farm.
It’s proposed on land owned by state Sen. Jay Wasson, a land developer, for an undisclosed sum of money.
The Nixa City Council heard a presentation from a solar farm developer on Wednesday. A pair of companies want to build a 7.92-megawatt power plant on a 72-acre piece of land off Missouri 14 just west of the Nixa city limits.
Solexus Development President David Bunge explained that his company serves as a negotiator for Strata Solar, a North Carolina company that builds solar power farms — including a proposed 4.95-megawatt plant on Farm Road 119 in Springfield.
“My focus is really on the front end of the project, finding the site, doing the permitting and development of the site,” Bunge said.
St. Louis-based Solexus leased Wasson’s 72 acres of property near the intersection of Missouri 14 and Essex Road.
Solexus proposed a 25-year contract to the city with estimated cost increases to the city of Nixa of 6.5 cents per kilowatt hour annually, or yearly increases of 2.5 percent. The contract with the solar power provider would theoretically lower the amount of electricity Nixa purchases each month from Springfield City Utilities.
Solexus negotiated a similar contract with City Utilities for a solar farm in Springfield. The Springfield farm has a tentative groundbreaking planned in March.
“City Utilities is on board with solar power,” Nixa Director of Public Works Doug Colvin said.
Colvin explained that the city purchases power in a manner akin to a homeowner powering a house. Each month, City Utilities bills the city of Nixa based on the amount of power it consumes. The Nixa Utility Department, in turn, bills its customers.
Colvin says a solar power plant on the Nixa grid could lower Nixa’s bills from City Utilities.
“Right off the bat it’s going to lower your fuel cost by the percentage of power (consumed) per year. That’s going to be in that calculation, it’s not going to be a huge number, but ... it will lower those fuel costs,” Colvin said.
“(A solar farm), first of all, has great potential to save money for the city, and secondly it provides consistency in your electrical costs throughout the year because this is a set contract for 25 years; it’s at a predictable, competent escalation rate,” Bunge said.
Colvin says Nixa’s peak demand for power during the hottest days of summer hits about 48 megawatts. On a hot summer day, a 7.92-megawatt power plant could meet up to 16.5 percent of Nixa’s peak demand for electricity.
“On a day like today, the percentage is going to be a lot higher. There is a lot of power usage today because it’s so cold, but we’re still not bringing (demand) to peak like we would in July or August,” Colvin said. “We’re going to be more like 30 megawatts today.”
Bunge says the farm’s capacity to generate electricity could increase in the future.
“We’re planning on using as much of the site as we can possibly use, and that’ll get us a system that’ll be that 7.92 megawatts. In 10, 15, 20 years, whatever it might be down the road — if we wanted to try and expand that capacity, most likely we would do that by switching out for more efficient future technology rather than actually using up more land,” Bunge said.
Bunge says the solar panels Strata installs are backed by a 25-year warranty and that the average solar panel has a lifespan of 30-35 years.
While Strata Solar would pay the upfront costs of building the solar farm, Nixa would need to pay an estimated $184,700 to a contractor to connect the farm to the power grid. The connection would be made to a substation on the north side of Missouri 14 from the proposed solar farm.
The cost comes because the substation, though advantageously positioned, is not connected to City Utilities’ Nixa power grid. The station is owned by Southwestern Power Administration.
Solexus generally locates solar farms in rural areas because of their size and aesthetic reasons.
“The primary thing that made the site attractive was its close proximity to extra resources — a good proximity to distribution lines, a substation right across the street,” Bunge said.
The Nixa City Council will make a decision on the solar power contract proposal following a cost/benefit economic analysis by consulting engineers from Toth and Associates of Springfield.
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