Plain Township officials might use the sun to save some cash.

Plain Township officials might use the sun to save some cash.

The trustees heard a presentation Wednesday, April 21, from two local companies about solar energy solutions at the Plain Township Aquatic Center.

David Cohen, regional manager for Dovetail Solar and Wind, told the trustees about different incentives in place for solar energy projects.

"The business is really growing quite a bit right now," he said. "What has happened is solar panel prices have gone down quite a bit."

Cohen said the state has four incentives in place for businesses and public entities: state grants, tax credits, accelerated appreciation and the sale of solar renewal energy credits.

Since public entities already are tax exempt, only the grant and the sale of solar renewal energy credits, called SREC, are available to the township.

"Because you can't take advantage of (them), we lobbied the state and talked about power purchase agreements," Cohen said. "This is being used in a lot of states and most of the big municipalities' solar projects are doing it through PPAs."

Cohen said the PPA means a third party would purchase the solar energy system and would sell the energy back to the host - the township - for a reduced price.

"The third party has investors that can take advantage of the tax benefits, and then they sell the energy back to the host, and that way both parties can share in the benefits," he said. "For Worthington, for instance, we did a PPA deal and it didn't cost the city school system a penny. Then they sell the energy back to the school district for a discount. It's a win-win."

Cohen presented a plan to the township that would include two 44-kilowatt solar panel arrays on both sides of the pool. The panels would be mounted on a steel structure that also would provide shade to pool patrons.

The estimated cost of the project is $650,000.

"We calculate this would cover 75 percent of the electric bill," Cohen said, noting it would pay for the lights and the pool pumps, which operate on electricity rather than gas.

Jerry Griffin, chief financial officer for Blight to Bright, which could potentially serve as the PPA for the project, said his company would find investors to buy the $650,000 solar system and would lease the use of it to the township for seven years.

"We'll turn around and sell you the electricity at a small discount from the AEP price, maybe 5 percent off," Griffin said. "After the seven years, we don't have any more tax incentives, so our proposal is that we sell it to you at that point for a discounted value and a predetermined price. You decide before you go into it whether that is going to make sense for you."

Griffin provided the trustees with cost-saving estimates for the next 20 years based upon estimated AEP rates.

According to his numbers, the township would save just over $800 in the first year and would save as much as $26,000 by year 20.

The solar equipment is estimated to last for 40 years and has a 25-year warranty.

Plain Township trustee chairman Dave Ferguson said he thought the proposal was interesting and worth considering.

"This is really intriguing," he said. "It's very good, it's interesting and it's consistent with a lot of our general thinking. I think we need more time to study it. It's a lot to absorb."

The trustees plan to discuss the proposal and future action at an upcoming meeting.

The village of New Albany is considering a similar proposal.

Joe Stefanov, village administrator, said the village was looking at installing solar panels on the roof of the service department facility on Bevelhymer Road.

"The difficulty we encountered ... was the cost of the project and the installation of the product, so we put it on hold temporarily in order to do some additional research," he said. "What we found since then was there are companies that actually lease the space on the building and enter into an agreement to sell power at a rate that is less expensive than traditional power. My question for our law director, which we are researching right now, is what tax implications (does that have)."

Stefanov said the fact that a private entity would lease public space could have implications for the village's tax-exempt status, he said.

"We are investigating all of these things, but depending on those answers we receive, we could potentially do something creative in a public-private joint venture," Stefanov said.

gmartineau@thisweeknews.com