DOVER — The City Council unanimously agreed to change the time when the city can purchase outright the solar panel array installed on Dover High School as requested by the investor of the project.
The installation of the array, which includes 2,851 320-watt solar modules, is nearly complete, and it’s anticipated to begin generating power next month. However, ReVision Energy, the firm that installed the array on the rooftop and contracted with the city for the array through a purchase power agreement (PPA) only recently obtained a private investor, Kenyon Energy, to fund the project, said Assistant City Manager Christopher Parker.
Because of how big the project was, the investor sought to push back when the city can buyout the solar array at the price listed in the PPA to recoup its investment, Parker said.
Under the PPA the council approved last summer, the city had its first option to purchase the equipment starting in year six of the 25-year agreement at a cost of $1.1 million. Under the change approved by the council Wednesday night, the city now has to wait until year 10 of the agreement for that option, at which point the array would cost $993,472. If it declined to purchase at that point, the city would have to wait until year 15 of the agreement, followed by every other year up until year 25.
Under the PPA, the city of Dover agrees to pay for the energy produced by the solar array at prices under current market prices. In the first year of the 25-year contract, the cost is 8.8 cents per kilowatt hour and increases 2 percent each year, until the city buys the array outright.
Steve Hinchman, ReVision Energy’s director of development and chief counsel, told the council it can still petition Kenyon purchase the array outright starting in year six of the contract, but it would have to be negotiated at the fair market value, unless it was in year 10, 15, 17, etc, which the PPA buyout price would be in effect.
Hinchman said the sooner the city can buyout the array, the more money it can save. But he said the city would save money even if it didn’t purchase the array. “The way you can maximize the investment is to buy the asset,” he said.
The council also set two public hearings for its next council meeting related to two resolutions regarding taxes for the DHS solar array and the one installed on the top of Dover Indoor Pool and the New Hampshire Children’s Museum. The resolution would allow the city to set payment to the solar array owner that would be in lieu of property taxes. Even though the city buildings are exempt from property taxes, the private investment of the solar array would be. As drafted, the resolution would set a payment price that would increase by 2 percent each year.