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Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010
By William Kincaid
Celina buying land for solar plant
  CELINA - Officials intend to purchase 50 acres of land along Meyer Road to allow for a privately-owned solar energy plant and eventually six sludge ponds for the city.
Council members on Monday evening unanimously approved an ordinance to enter into an option purchase agreement with landowners Floyd and Joanne Heiby for $5,000. The city has until April 1 - with a potential extension to July 1 - to actually purchase the 50 acres for $600,000.
The land, located just south of state Route 29, was annexed into the city 10 years ago.
City officials now need to finalize a purchase agreement with owners of Solar Vision LLC of Westerville, who want to lease the land to construct the solar plant. They would pay the city a one-time payment of $600,000 to lease the land for 20 years.
Solar Vision Vice President Mike Dickman on Monday night presented council a check for $5,000 to cover the land option purchase agreement.
"It's at their risk," Bryan said about the $5,000.
According to Bryan, the northern 25 acres of the parcel would be used by the solar plant, with the southern 25 acres used for the city's water treatment plant for the sludge ponds. One sludge pond would be built at first, with room for five more, Bryan said. Also near the pond would be wetlands used for filtering the water.
Bryan said the city would be responsible for $12,800 in closing costs, which includes attorney fees, title insurance, title search, recording fees and surveying. He said the city would use funds remaining in the city walkway project account to cover that cost.
The city has $110,000 in the walkway account; that money was set aside to create wetlands that were required as part of building the walkway along Grand Lake. The wetlands at the sludge pond site would fulfill that obligation, Bryan said.
The city has three sludge ponds along South Main Street. Bryan said removing these ponds would help protect the city's drinking water because the earthen embankments have eroded.
The sludge ponds hold silt and algae removed from intake water at the water treatment plant. For the new ponds, the city would pump the sludge from the water treatment plant to the new property by intersecting the current pipe at Schunk Road straight west 4,200 feet.
Extending the pipe would cost about $150,000, which would be paid for by the water utility fund, Bryan said.
Dickman told the newspaper the proposed solar plant for Celina would be the company's largest operation to date, with an estimated 12,500 panels installed. The panels contain no moving parts and are inaudible. The project is estimated to cost about $18 million.
The plant - including the design, engineering, construction, extension of power lines to the city, operation and maintenance - would be paid by the company. Dickman said the plant could be finished by the end of next summer.
The city would be required to purchase 3 megawatts of electricity, all of the plant's output, at $70 a megawatt-hour the first 10 years. After that, the city could either purchase the solar plant at the fair market value or continue purchasing electricity at a rate 15 percent less than the market value that would be locked for the next 10 years.
Bryan also noted that the city's general fund would take in between $30,000 to $40,000 each year from a kilowatt hour tax and improvements to real estate due to the deal.
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