Written by Kelly Kaczala
October 22, 2010
City Administrator Mike Beasley said last week that he will look into the possible use of wind turbines to power city facilities as a way to cut utility costs.
Beasley said he’s looked at the issue for the last several years, but was not sold on the idea.
“I’ve looked at the issue of using alternative energy sources for public, governmental buildings over the last 10 years or so,” Beasley said at a committee of the whole meeting Oct. 18. “I had a hard time making the math work so that the cost per kilowatt hour, or for a thousand cubic feet of gas, would work right for the governmental side.”
The issue has changed over the years, making it a feasible alternative energy source, he said.
“That really has changed in recent times with the public-private partnership model, which allows a private entity to take advantage of tax credits for the alternative energy product, and at the same time, essentially providing power directly to the governmental entity, or having a lease system so that the governmental entity never has a capital obligation,” said Beasley. “In some models, it cashes out in year one for the governmental entity. So you provide an alternative power source and we save money in year one on our bottom line, while at the same time shifting some of our load to sustainable energy. The wind turbine models look very good.”
The aftermarket value of the renewable energy credits, combined with direct tax credits, allows the private sector partnership to work well, said Beasley.
“Oregon might be in a position with our facilities along the lakefront, where it would make economic sense from year one, without a long term risk or liability to the taxpayers, with leaseback options. We’re going to begin that exploration. We think it would be exciting, something that has a real possibility for us downstream. I’ve wanted to do it, but never quite been able to make it work before. But now I think it’s actually right to do,” he said.
“That would be great to take a step forward and to do some wind energy,” said Councilman Jim Seaman. “Do those leases have a performance criteria they have to meet in terms of delivery of energy? We don’t want to get stuck paying for something when delivery is not there for the city in terms of kilowatt hours.”
“There’s lots of pitfalls with it,” said Beasley, “but there are ways to make it work.”
Councilman Dennis Walendzak said he had asked Beasley to look into the city using alternate energy after he crossed paths with a company that installs wind turbines and sells wind packages. The company is working with the Oregon City Schools District about installing windmills, he said.
Councilman Sandy Bihn, who also serves as Western Lake Erie Waterkeeper, said she endorses the possible use of alternative energy in the city.
“I applaud Mr. Walendzak for bringing it up, and the administration for pursuing it. And I’m very happy to hear that it might be viable to have wind energy, probably at the water and wastewater plants because of the heavier loads that they have, or perhaps here at the municipal complex. I hope it succeeds and is successful,” said Bihn.
After the committee of the whole meeting, Walendzak said it was good timing to have met up with the company because the city is reviewing a potential 33 month contract with FirstEnergy.
“We got to see the figures on how much energy usage we had at a number of our facilities, and we spend over a half million dollars a year on energy usage,” said Walendzak. “If [wind turbines] can offset costs and save the city money, we have to be all for it. We should really look into it and make sure it’s viable, first. If it can save the tax payers money and lower the cost of doing business in the city, I think everyone would be behind it.”