Days after Tallahassee Reports published a story noting that the vendor for the City of Tallahassee’s solar farm was a foreign company, questions from the Utility Citizen Advisory Committee (UCAC) prompted Reese Goad to address the procurement process for the project.
Reese Goad is currently the Acting City Manager for the City of Tallahassee.
The procurement process for the solar farm project resulted in the selection First Solar Development, LLC as the highest ranked bidder. However, after several months of negotiations with the City, First Solar withdrew and Origis – the second ranked bidder – was awarded the contract.
Goad’s email stated that “I have been asked about the procurement process related to the selection of Origis as the vendor for the Solar Farm project and that Origis is an international company.”
Goad wrote that “Origis has a wide international presence, including a USA Headquarters in Miami, FL.”
TR has previously reported that Origis Energy is a foreign owned company with financial ties to Belgium and Cyprus.
Also, in the email Goad detailed a procurement history for the project which included the following points:
In June 2015 the City Commission approved the selection committee ranking and authorized staff to begin contract negotiations with the top ranked vendor, First Solar Development LLC. If acceptable terms with the top ranked vendor were not achieved, staff would begin negotiations with the second-ranked, and then the third-ranked, vendors.
After seven months of negotiations, First Solar made the business decision to withdraw from the RFP process and terminated all negotiations with the City. (Emphasis added)
Negotiations began with Origis Energy in early 2016, the second-rank vendor.
These negotiations resulted in agreement under which a 20 MW solar farm will be owned and operated by Origis Energy (doing business as FL Solar 1, LLC) and will be located at the southern end of the Tallahassee International Airport on City owned land. The City will purchase 100% of the energy produced from the facility for an initial term of 20 years at a pre-determined pricing structure. The City has an option to extend the term by an additional 10 years.
Goad did not address the “business decision” that resulted in a change of vendors. However, it appears the owners of First Solar Development, LLC -even though they withdrew – benefited from the procurement process.
An Origis representative informed TR that the solar panels used at the City’s solar farm were purchased by Origis from First Solar, headquartered in Arizona.
Bloomberg News reports that First Solar Development – the original vendor selected for the City of Tallahassee solar farm project – operates as a subsidiary of First Solar, Inc.
However, the representative could not comment where the panels were assembled or produced since First Solar has manufacturing facilities in the U.S. and other countries.
These findings prompt several questions.
Was the “business decision” that resulted in a change of vendors a negotiation between Origis and First Solar?
Is it normal procurement procedure for vendors to negotiate after a decision is rendered by an elected body?
Did the citizens of Tallahassee get the best deal?
TR will continue to investigate.