RP&L approves $170K for solar panels at park
Bill Engle, email@example.com 6:35 a.m. EST November 18, 2014
Richmond Power & Light Board of Directors on Monday approved by a 7-1 vote a plan to invest $170,000 in construction of a solar paneled roof on a new downtown park, as long as the city administration is able to find and spend an equal amount on the project.
The downtown park is the city's first and furthest-along of its Stellar Communities projects. The solar panels will cover a building in the new park that will house a farmers' market.
City director of Metropolitan Development Tony Foster told board members that the project was $600,000 over budget and asked for help after former RP&L General Manager Jim French suggested a partnership.
Foster said some reductions were being made, but that the partnership would be the best way to reduce the overrun. He said without the partnership there would be no farmers' market building at the park.
Foster said the design firm hired for the project was "at a point where they have to know if they can move forward."
"We're not asking you for a check. We're asking you to set aside dollars so we can move ahead with the project," Foster said.
Board members Doug Goss, Kelley Cruse-Nicholson, Bruce Wissel, Don Winget, Larry Parker, Ron Oler and Phil Quinn voted in favor of the partnership while Misty Hollis voted against.
Goss said the partnership "gives us the opportunity to look at how we might work with companies who are considering using solar paneling in the future."
"I think it's a positive thing. It's a project we will have total control over," he said.
But Hollis said, "From my personal preference, I just don't it's a project that RP&L should be funding."
"They are coming to us because they could not find other funding. That disturbs me," she said.
Randy Baker, RP&L corporate services director, supported the project and built it into the utility's 2015 budget.
Baker said the panels will produce 500 kilowatts of electricity per day and estimated that it would bring in about $173,000 during the 20-year life of the project.
The electricity will go to the Indiana Municipal Power Agency but proceeds will benefit RP&L. The electricity generated will be used locally.
Foster said he was pleased with the vote even though the administration must now find the additional $170,000 for the project.
"I'm very excited the RP&L board agreed to partner with us. I think this is a great project," he said.
Foster said he hopes to have bid information out to possible contractors in January or February.
"We are ready to move ahead," he said.
Staff writer Bill Engle: (765) 973-4481 or firstname.lastname@example.org Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/billengle_PI.