City staff recommends the proposal from Thurston Solar Management LLC, one of two pitches the city received after asking for proposals in October. The council will have the final say and is scheduled to vote tonight.
Rich Phillips, managing member of Thurston Solar Management, said the company aims to install the panels before next summer to take maximum advantage of the solar season.
“We’re going to help the city generate clean, renewable energy,” he said.
The city estimates that the solar panels will provide 10 to 15 percent of each facility’s energy needs, saving an average of $7,000 to $9,000 per year per installation.
Assistant City Manager Jay Burney said the city favored the Tumwater company’s proposal over one from Global Green Energy Corp. of Olympia because it had more favorable terms.
Thurston Solar Management proposes charging the city 4.5 cents per kilowatt hour of solar-generated electricity compared to 8.5 cents per kilowatt hour in Global Green Energy’s proposal.
But charging the city anything at all for solar power is a departure from an earlier solar-panel project from the same company, a solar array on the new Hands on Children’s Museum that the council approved in September. That project came at no cost to the city.
“We were hoping to get zero (cost) on the rest of our buildings,” Burney said. “We were getting some feedback that we might get charged for power.”
Phillips said the company proposes charging per kilowatt hour, because a federal program that rebated 30 percent of the cost of solar arrays is expiring at the end of the year. He said the solar panels couldn’t be purchased by the end of the year.
“We can’t raise all the funds for all of them at once,” he said.
The rest of the deal would be similar to the arrangement at the children’s museum. The city would lease the four facilities to Thurston Solar Management for nine years for $1 per year. The solar company would be responsible for purchasing, installing and maintaining the solar equipment. at the end of the lease, the city could either renew it, require the installation to be removed at the company’s expense or buy the system at its depreciated value.
A cottage industry of solar installations has sprung up in Washington over the past couple of years as a result of recent state legislation that gives companies big incentives. The state solar law, enabled by legislation passed in 2005 and amended in 2009 and 2010, allows the formation of private investment groups to put solar installations on public property. it allows the state to pay up to $1.08 per kilowatt hour of solar energy generated.
Local investors have also put solar panels on the Olympia Farmer’s Market under the Community Solar Law.
Phillips said that Thurston Solar Management aims to put together an investment group of Thurston County residents. The project would be jointly managed by Phillips and Stanley Florek, CEO of Tangerine Power of Seattle, which was founded in 2009 with the express purpose of developing community solar projects, according to the proposal.
Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869