Plan Slated to Bring Solar Power to City of Tallahassee Utilities Customers

Plan Slated to Bring Solar Power to City of Tallahassee Utilities Customers

TALLAHASSEE — Customers of City of Tallahassee Utilities can soon use solar power without dealing with the complications and high costs of installing rooftop solar panels on their individual buildings, if a proposed plan is adopted by city commissioners.

There will be an open enrollment period for customers wanting to subscribe to the proposed city solar utility program, tentatively scheduled to begin on June 1 and to end on Dec. 31, 2017.

According to a solar farm status report prepared by City of Tallahassee’s Electric Utility General Manager Rob McGarrah for an April 5 meeting with the city, Tallahassee has entered an agreement with Origis Energy to develop two utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) facilities on city-owned property at the airport. Ground-breaking on the first facility is set for May 1.

Origis will build, own, operate and maintain the solar farms and the city will pay Origis for the energy delivered at contractually agreed-upon fixed prices for 20-years.

According to the report, by contracting with Origis, the city benefits from a 30 percent federal tax credit that is currently only available to private entities that develop solar PV facilities.

Over the 20-year initial contract, the first solar farm, a 20 megawatt (MW) facility, located at Tallahassee International Airport on 120 acres just south of the north/south runway, is expected to produce, on average, 37 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity each year.  The second, a 40 MW facility, will produce 74 million kWh, for a total of 111 million kWh, but is not expected to come online until 2019.

“This equals the total energy needs of about 10,300 Tallahassee homes at average usage levels. The proposed customer participation program allows residential, small and medium-sized commercial customers to optionally subscribe for all or a portion of their monthly kWh electricity consumption to be designated as solar farm energy,” according to McGarrah’s report.

As proposed, customers can opt for either 25, 50 or 100 percent of their metered kWhs designated as solar farm energy.

A solar charge will be applied in place of the fuel charge which is paid by all customers to recover the cost of fossil fuels (primarily natural gas) burned to generate electricity in the City’s power plants.

According to the report, the charge is adjusted every six months and is based upon the price the city pays for natural gas.

“At 3.290 cents per kWh, this rate is currently at its lowest level since September of 2000, although in the past the fuel charge has risen as high as nine cents per kWh,” McGarrah wrote.

In lieu of the standard fuel charge, the kWhs customers designate as solar will be billed at a fixed rate of five cents per kWh for the 20-year initial term of the contract.

“Solar participants will initially pay a premium for solar farm service,” the report said, “since their solar usage is billed at a higher rate than under the current standard fuel charge (five cents versus about three cents). However, since it is projected that in the future the fuel charge will rise from its currently historically low levels, the differential between the rates will likely narrow, and it is expected the fuel charge will rise above five cents within the next 20 year. If this occurs, solar participants will pay less than the standard rate. The program offers participants the opportunity to lock in the rate they pay for a significant component of their electric bill.”

According to the report, the program will also be available to the City’s largest electric customers, those whose maximum demands exceeds 500 kW. These customers will be required to specify a fixed number of monthly kWhs that will be designated as solar farm energy, in lieu of the percentage options offered other customers. Energy subscriptions for commercial customers will be limited to 50 percent of the farm’s energy output.

Construction on the first facility should be completed by August. Planning for the second farm is also underway and construction will begin in 2019 following all approval processes.

At its February 25, 2015 meeting the City Commission authorized staff to issue a request for proposal to secure a 10-megawatt (MW) utility-scale solar PV project. Eleven firms submitted proposals, and at the June 17, 2015 commission meeting the selection committee’s final ranking was presented. The top ranked vendor withdrew. The City then selected the second-ranked vendor, Orgis.

During negotiations with Orgis, staff recognized the opportunity to increase the size of the project and realize additional savings. At its Feb. 24, 2016 meeting the Commission gave its approval to double the size of the project, from 10 MW to 20 MW of capacity, and authorized the city manager to execute a related Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) and land lease with Origis.

The PPA between the city and Origis was executed on July 21, 2016.                            

16 Responses to "Plan Slated to Bring Solar Power to City of Tallahassee Utilities Customers"

  1. When natural gas prices eventually go up then all the folks who hedged at the 20 year locked in rate will be thankful for making a green decision. But even if it doesn’t pay off in the long run I still think its worth a couple hundred extra per year to go green.

    Natural gas is polluting the environment and doing who knows what to the drinking water as well as causing earthquakes in places like Oklahoma.

    I lived in China for 20 years before coming back to Tallahassee. The air was so polluted there you couldn’t see the blue sky but for during rainy season in the summer months. The Chinese government is investing in green energy because they are afraid of the people rising up in mass protest for the last 30 years of recklessness in policing manufacturing emissions.

    Embrace the technology even if it costs more to begin with to get it started.

  2. The flushing sound is your tax dollars going down the drain to subsidize a liberal’s wet dream of living on fresh air and sunshine for free.
    Solar and wind are not mature technologies yet and the cost of infrastructure to support them is excessive due to their placement outside inhabited areas.
    I think we should kill ALL subsidies (except for R&D) and let the MARKET pick the winners.

  3. I too am confused by this separate solar power rate. If I use 100kwh gas and pay $100 lets say. I sign up for solar and pay $50 for 50kwh gas and $75 for solar (since solar costs more). Even though Im really using all gas.

    Plus, the company gets a federal tax credit, which means every citizen who pays federal tax (including TLH) is paying the company (who then sells it to TLH at a lower rate than otherwise (in theory)).

    PLUS, the property. Did we give that to them? Are we leasing it? Is the company paying us for the property?

    1. Your not actually “selling it back”. It’s just reducing the cost the city needs to produce the power you use.

  4. Cost comparison

    Power Plant Type Cost
    Coal $0.095-0.15
    Natural Gas $0.07-0.14
    Nuclear $0.095
    Wind $0.07-0.20
    Solar PV $0.125
    Solar Thermal $0.24
    Geothermal $0.05
    Biomass $0.10
    Hydro $0.08

    From US DOE

    1. PV is the most talked about because it’s the most expensive as your chart shows. But they don’t talk about who pays for it leaving the majority to assume the user is. Nope, it’s the taxpayer ( or it goes into the deficit) through subsidies. There are no examples of solar being a financial success yet. It always takes a transfer of wealth from the taxpayers to make the PV suppliers and installers wealthy and keep the end user in the dark (pun intended) about how it works financially. And they love it that way too !

  5. Another thing I’m interested in is will anyone will be required to publish annual numbers to prove if they meet they’re estimated spending and savings.

  6. This is an interesting proposition. Have the ability to opt in at varying levels to hedge against future fossil fuel price increases. But 20 years is a long time… How is anyone sure $.05 is a competitive rate to start? One would think that future technology gains would allow for solar to be available on a larger scale at a continually cheaper cost. Plus, all the other moving parts on the current COT electric bill. Will those stay constant?

  7. Yep! Pay extra for perceived (fake) moral superiority. pretty much the definition of Liberalism. Kind of like driving a Prius.

  8. How can a house on the North side of Tallahassee have designated use of the Solar Farm?! And, if I do decide to be 100% solar, does that mean I wont’t have electricity at night?! Come on people, they are pulling the wool over your eyes & charging you more for it!!!!

    1. The solar power is added to the grid. If you help pay for the solar farm you will be billed at the solar power rate, day and night. Even though you get the solar power rate the electricity coming into your house may be from solar or gas. The electricity you get at night will definitely be from gas. The solar program gives customers a better way to invest in solar power without having to build solar panels and maintain solar panels on their own property.

    2. The solar farm will add electricity to the grid. If you help pay for the solar farm you will be billed at the solar rate for each kilowatt you use. Your house will receive power from the grid that comes from solar or gas, but you will pay the solar rate. At night your electricity will come from gas. If you choose solar your just helping pay for the solar plant. You could choose to put solar at your house but this would be more expensive and you would have to maintain the solar panels.

      1. That’s not how it’s perceived in their report. They make it seem like you can opt in to have 100% solar. Riddle me this, what if no one signs up for the 5 cent rate, how will the City pay for the power. I think they will regret it in the long run. Solar is good on a small scale, say if you were to power you house (which yes, is expensive). But on a large scale, such as a solar farm, causes more problems when tied into a grid. It doesn’t help frequency & provides no voltage support when it’s needed.

    3. well that’s not the most ignorant statement I’ve seen on this site, but it’s close to it. All your points have been answered before, but it seems like you’re being willfully ignorant, which is just silly.

      So who’s paying you to spout that nonsense?

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