Monday, November 25th, 2013
By William Kincaid
Celina solar plant expected to reach generation goal
  CELINA - The solar plant on 30 acres of city land off Meyer Road is on target to nearly reach its anticipated power generation for the year.
"In general, it is producing as expected, as planned," said Mike Dickman, vice president of SolarVision of Westerville, which owns the plant.
The plant has been operating since Dec. 22 and as of last week had produced 5,600 megawatt hours; the company's expectation of 6,000 to 6,200 megawatt hours this year is within reach.
"They're going to come real close to their goal, I think," Celina Mayor Jeff Hazel told the newspaper.
A few startup issues as well as weather-related problems throughout the year - blown fuses and voltage spikes - occurred in 2013, but nothing out of the ordinary, Dickman said.
Dickman expects the plant to meet the annual benchmark of 6,200 megawatt hours in the future.
Electricity produced from more than 21,000 solar panels represents 2 percent of Celina's total power needs, Hazel said.
"Because solar power is more intermittent, it's not a constant base load power," he said, noting the panels have an efficiency rate of 12 to 15 percent.
A megawatt of solar energy costs the city $67.50 compared to $58 it spends on a megawatt purchased through its primary suppliers coordinated by American Municipal Power. Because the solar electricity accounts for so little of the aggregate power supply, utility customers are not affected by the higher price.
The city has no investment in the power lines, substations or transmission of the electricity, Hazel stressed.
"The city is not performing their maintenance," he said. "They are performing their own maintenance because we are their customers."
SolarVision monitors the field via Internet and contracts with a third party to conduct maintenance.
It addition to Celina, SolarVision operates plants in Athens, Newcomerstown Schools, Worthington School District and the city of Washington Courthouse.
Hazel said solar is a clean source of energy with no carbon released or bothersome noise made in its production. Also, if municipality owned electric systems are ever mandated to include green energy, Celina will be ahead of the game.
SolarVision secured financing for the $18 million solar power system in August 2012. The deal is a partnership of SolarVision, New Energy Capital Cleantech Infrastructure Fund, Q.CELLS North America, Finance Fund and JPMorgan Chase & Co.
SolarVision paid the city $1.3 million to set up the plant. The city used some of the funds to purchase the land off Meyer Road, now named the Celina Renewable Energy Center.
Hazel said there are no plans to expand.
"We don't need any more power," he said.
The city's aggregate monthly electricity bill from AMP is about $1.1 million.
City officials recently discussed the possibility of increasing electric rates for the first time since 2005 due to anticipated growing costs; an extra $448,000 is needed for next year.
The cost of a megawatt of electricity is projected to jump from $59.81 this year to $68.08 in 2014, $72.25 in 2015 and $73.33 in 2016, according to AMP.
"The market price of energy has been lower than anticipated or expected," Hazel said about a temporary market reprieve that led to abnormally low electricity prices the last two years.
City officials have also discussed the option of instating an across-the-board flat fee increase of 3.5 percent.
But Hazel on Friday said the city may just adjust the Energy Acquisition Adjustment fee, an assessment added to each customer's monthly bill that reflects increases in fuel, power, supply and wholesale costs, instead of raising rates, until city officials get a better assessment of the market.
Celina switched from DP&L to AMP as its primary power supplier about 10 years ago in an attempt to save money after electricity was deregulated in Ohio, and the city's last seven-year contract with DP&L expired.
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