Kutztown Borough Council reviewed a proposal for a solar energy project that could save the borough $3.1 million over 20 years for just phase one.
Dr. Rex D'Agostino from MetroTek Electrical Services provided a presentation to council on Oct. 18.
Why does MetroTek want to set up this solar panel system in Kutztown?
'We wish to work with townships who have a vision for the future and have its residential, industrial, and commercial communities at the forefront of their thinking,' D'Agostino told The Patriot.
He noted that Kutztown installed Smart Meters throughout the borough.
'Kutztown is at the head of the curve in preparing the future for electrical generation and demand side management,' he said. 'What a perfect situation to apply renewable energy to the mix in order to hedge against electrical rates which will surely rise significantly over the next 10 to 15 years.'
D'Agostino said the quality of the site - located off Kohler Road near the water treatment facility on borough property - is ideal for a solar system in Kutztown. MetroTek conducted a shade analysis.
'It's incredibly perfect for what we're trying to accomplish,''he said.
There is no shade. There are no residential housing around the site, which is flat and open and it's agriculture land so it is easy to dig into. Also, the site is isolated, so it will not be a bother to residents, he said. The property would be fenced.
MetroTek proposes a three-phase project with three zones.
MetroTek applies for the federal 1603 Grant designating Kutztown Borough as the project recipient.
'The federal government gives MetroTek a grant equaling 30 percent of the total cost of the whole project (11.6 megawatts installed) including Zones 1, 2, and 3, generating 14.5 megawatt hours of power,' he said.
The deadline to apply for the grant is mid December. D'Agostino anticipates that the federal grant program will not be renewed.
'The total project value is in the vicinity of $4.34 per watt installed before the grant and depreciation, $3.04 per watt before depreciation, and $1.53 per watt after the grant and depreciation,''he said.
D'Agostino said there would be no cost to the borough.
'MetroTek, through its subsidiary, provides the financing; not the Kutztown Borough,' he said. 'The borough's commitment is to purchase the power produced by the system over an agreed period of time for an agreed price per kilowatt hour (usually 20 years), nothing else.'
The system is anticipated to provide significant electrical savings.
'Initial data suggests that the cost savings, for the entire project, are projected to be in the vicinity of $5.6 million over 15 years, $10 million over 20 years (22.3 percent savings), and approximately $15.3 million over 25 years; depending on the specifics of the contractual language,' explained D'Agostino.
For just zone 1, D'Agostino said the installation is expected that the 'borough will reap a cost savings of 16.94 percent or over $3.1 million over 20 years and does include their costs associated with their current source of power.'
Also, MetroTek would perform everything involved with the project, including the engineering, financing, permitting, installation, commissioning and warranty, as well as maintenance and monitoring of the system. Zone 1 has 15.3 acres with 22,570 panels, zone 2 has 16.1 acres and zone 3 has 4.4 acres.
The proposal is to start with zone 1, which would only serve a portion of the borough's energy needs and the borough would need to continue to provide energy using its current method. The Kutztown Foundry and school system would not be served by the solar power system.
Council members asked about maintenance needs and safety to the borough wells.
D'Agostino said the panels do not need to be washed and are built to withstand the elements, including hail.
While the site is relatively close to the borough well heads, he said the solar system presents no danger to the wells.
Ground screws, approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, hold up the panels. There is no concrete.
'We are not contaminating anything,''he said.
Water traverses down the module and through the panels, dispersing the water so that there are no flooding issues, he said.
Hard fescue, a slow growing hardy grass, would be planted under the panels. This means the fields would not need to be mowed or maintained.
MetroTek first approached Kutztown Borough officials at a March 16 Finance and Electric Committee meeting. Subsequent meetings occurred with various officials of the borough since that time. Oct. 18 was the first meeting with the entire Borough Council.
No action was taken. Further discussions anticipated in committee meetings.
Follow Lisa Mitchell on Twitter at twitter.com/ kutztownpatriot.