Paul Kosenski walks his dog, Maxii, around Wally Toevs Pond next to the solar panels at the Boulder Wastewater Treatment Facility. City council on Tuesday approved 14 site lease agreements with Unico Solar Investors to place solar installations on city-owned properties. (Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer)
Despite some concerns about how the process unfolded, Boulder City Council members on Tuesday approved 14 site lease agreements with Unico Solar Investors to place solar installations on city-owned properties.
The company will build and operate the facilities, at no upfront cost to the city, while the city purchases the power through separate agreements. Through power purchase agreements, the city will pay for the power the system produces — rather than for the system as a whole — and reduce the amount of power it purchases from Xcel Energy. The project will add an estimated 2.75 megawatts of solar capacity and reduce the government’s emissions by an estimated 6%.
Council members, particularly Cindy Carlisle, noted they would have appreciated more time to consider the agreements and the project as a whole.
“As a matter of process … this is not a good way for city council to be making policy decisions, when we are handed this amount of material,” Carlisle said, holding up a thick stack of papers council received late last week ahead of the Tuesday meeting.
Carolyn Elam, energy manager in the city’s Climate Initiatives Department, acknowledged council’s concerns and explained that the process was on a tight timeline because of hitches earlier in the project’s process, as well as looming declines in federal investment tax credits that make the project more affordable. The city itself is not eligible for the credits, but the project allows Unico Solar Investors to take advantage of them.
“We are concerned about those prices continuing to go up,” Elam said. “… Any further slippage would cause us to lose the (investment tax credits), and we have to go back and renegotiate pricing.”
Council members heeded those concerns as they supported the project.
“Thinking through the risk of losing the investment tax credit is probably the main reason for continuing at the current pace without stopping for two to three weeks to review it,” Councilman Sam Weaver said.
Council members also expressed enthusiasm about the project because it is designed to be cost neutral and provides power Elam estimated would otherwise cost the city $12 million if it operated its own facilities. The city has a goal of 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030, as well as an 80 percent reduction in the government’s emissions by the same year.
“This is really exciting,” Mayor Suzanne Jones said. “… It’s also good to understand how the model works.”
After discussion of the project, council members unanimously approved the site lease agreements as part of their consent agenda.
Cassa Niedringhaus: 303-473-1106, firstname.lastname@example.org