Chandler adding more solar projects - East Valley Tribune: Chandler

Chandler adding more solar projects

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Posted: Tuesday, April 29, 2014 6:45 am

On the heels of two solar projects that were completed in January, Chandler soon will bring two more to city facilities.

The City Council at its April 10 meeting approved contracts with SolarCity to install solar panels at the police department’s property and evidence building, as well as at the downtown library.

Chandler will spend nearly $461,000 for carports with solar panels in the library parking lot and about $239,000 for panels on the roof and carports at the police building.

“We were strategic in looking for sites,” said Mariah Norris, an assistant in the city manager’s office. “We wanted sites where we could get the biggest bang for our buck.”

That bang, however, isn’t big enough for Councilman Jeff Weninger, who opposed the projects. Councilman Jack Sellers and Mayor Jay Tibshraeny were absent from the meeting and did not vote.

“I’m always looking at return on investment and 12 years is just too long to wait for a return on $700,000,” said Weninger, who also opposed previous city solar projects at Tumbleweed Park, the parking lot shared by the Chandler Municipal Court and Chandler Police Department and the City Hall parking garage.

The up-front costs to the city include installation and 20 years of prepaid power at a locked rate, Norris said.

Chandler expects to save more than $500,000 from the library panels and more than $300,000 from the police building panels, Norris said.

“I just think there are better uses for those funds now,” Weninger said. “The $700,000 could build a lot of ball fields for kids or fund a lot of street repairs.

“With the way technology goes, this infrastructure we’re paying for will be worn in 12 years and probably obsolete in 20 years.”

The latest solar projects are expected to be operational this winter.

As with previous solar projects, Chandler will not owe more money if the panels produce more power than the contract guarantees. But SolarCity will reimburse the city if the panels under-perform, Norris said.

“These projects are a little bigger than our previous ones and were expected to be a little bit bigger savings in the long run,” Norris said, adding that the city will look at additional solar projects for the future, but nothing specific is in the plans right now.

Weninger, who is up for re-election this fall, said he will continue to oppose such projects “unless the return on investment gets shorter.”

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