This 2010 drone photo provided by the city of Ellensburg shows the solar panels that make up Ellensburg’s 109-kilowatt community solar project. (Contributed)
The city of Ellensburg will take another crack at creating a new rate structure to pay for the city’s community solar energy park following complaints from local environmental advocates and solar energy customers.
City utilities staff proposed modifying the fee structure for the Community Renewable Park project in April to, in part, create a way to pay for facility maintenance and, possibly, growth.
Solar project investors and the Our Environment environmental advocacy group argued the April plan would create an unfair rate structure between those paying for power and those investing into the system for power credits at a later date, and that the city wasn’t adhering to its stated goals for sustainability.
The council sent the original proposal back to the city Utility Advisory Committee for further review and discussion with Our Environment and other stakeholders.
City Power and Gas Director Shan Rowbotham presented the new ordinance as a compromise, and said Our Environment had valid concerns, most of which the new ordinance addressed.
“We want to be responsive to customers but support the more expensive renewables, instead of all of our customers paying extra costs,” he said. “So we’re trying to strike a balance here, and that is between the customers who want renewable energy and are willing to pay a little bit more for it, and the other subset of customers, that we haven’t really heard much from. They’re the ones who want the lowest cost of power.”
The proposed rate plan offers those interested in using or advancing solar energy in the city three options.
The plan is fairly similar to what the city originally proposed, but now would allow ratepayers to opt out of any plan at any time:Customers can buy power generated at the solar park in 100 kilowatt-hour blocks at 2.5 cents per block, or $250 per month, but that number of blocks is limited to 130 due to the amount of power the panels can produce.
The 109-kilowatt system at the project generates 160,000 kilowatt-hours per year, according to the city.
Customers who participate would receive a credit on their electric bill.As a second option, interested buyers can make a $2 per month unit contribution to maintain the renewable energy park, with no limit on units.
The money spent on either option is in addition to normal electricity bills.Third, the city has a mechanism to accept donations directly toward the cash fund that maintains or expanding the facility.
Read more here, and more about Ellensburg’s power situation here.