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Solar power initiative continued

Published August 27. 2010 05:00PM

The Summit Hill Water Authority continued in its initiative to bring solar power to the community.

Officials are exploring a system to power its physical plant and possibly the borough hall with a 345kw system engineered by Reading Electric in partnership with Borrego Solar. Last night the authority unanimously adopted a resolution of its intention to borrow up to $1.403 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"You need to pass the resolution to show that you are serious about continuing the project, so that the USDA will consider making the loan to you," said authority engineer Michael Tirpak. "Although we are stating that the maximum amount we are seeking is $1.403 million, this resolution does not commit you to borrowing the money. This is not binding but more a statement of your intention to continue the project."

After Tirpak explained the commitment wasn't binding, Vice President Robert Collevechio and treasurer Joe O'Gurek made the motion to adopt the resolution. The action carried unanimously and Tirpak was directed to continue the work on the project.

Chairperson John Michalik said on behalf of the board he was very grateful to Tirpak, Reading Electric manager Jim Kurtz and consultant Betsy Maholick for all of their hard work in making the solar project a reality.

The one-acre field will be constructed in White Bear on the authority's property. At one time, the authority pursued leasing land from LC&N near St. Joseph's Church, but the recent takeover of LC&N ended the negotiations for that site. Kurtz and Tirpak informed the authority the site is suitable for a solar field and it was decided to place it there.

Kurtz reviewed the figures with the authority which was awarded a $500,000 grant from PPL earlier this summer for the solar project. The solar field will cost $1.69 million. The grant reduces the amount the authority has to finance to $1.19 million.

Kurtz said the payment on that loan amortized over 20 years will be $91,521, but the energy generated will conservatively be worth $119,017 the first year, and gradually decrease over subsequent years to $112,632 in 12 years, due to the routine loss of efficiency with the passage of time. In the same period though, the authority will realize a savings of approximately $37,000 to $57,000 in the same period creating a positive cash flow of approximately $59,000 a year.

The authority is planning to utilize this cash flow to take care of long-needed infrastructure repairs throughout the borough, which the last time they were itemized earlier in the year, were estimated to cost at least a few million dollars if they were done at one time.

Michalik said beside the PPL grant, the authority is pursuing another grant with the hope of reducing the loan amount even further.

Because of the need to act on other financing which they expect to hear about in the next few weeks, Michalik announced the authority would be scheduling special meetings on Tuesday, Aug. 30, and Tuesday, Sept. 7 in anticipation of having to act on any financing decisions.

In other business, the authority directed Tirpak to have the tank inspected at a cost of $1,250 for both an inside and outside inspection. Because the inner inspection is performed using a robot, there will not be a need to drain the tank.

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