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Story by Leslie Huffman, photo by Hal Goodtree.
Cary, NC – Back in 2007, the North Carolina General Assembly implemented the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS). Under this law, investor-owned utility companies in North Carolina (like Duke Energy) are required to meet 12.5% of their electrical needs through renewable energy sources.
Now, Cary is forging ahead with an innovative plan for a solar farm on a parking deck.
Following this legislative action, the Town of Cary investigated the possibility of installing renewable energy generation equipment, specifically a photovoltaic (PV) solar energy system, on various locations on Town properties. The initial sites were selected based on available space, suitability for the efficient collection of solar energy, and future expansion plans.
Recently the Town of Cary committed to a partnership with FLS Energy, a solar systems installer out of Asheville, to install and operate solar panels on Town of Cary property. FLS Energy will first install solar PV equipment on the Town Hall Campus Parking Deck and Roof Structures.
The second installation of the PV solar systems will be located at the South Cary Water Reclamation Facility. This project is currently under design and is anticipated to begin construction in early 2012 with installation of Phase I completed in a little over a year.
The power generated will be returned to the distribution grid as a renewable source of energy. The estimated Phase I installation capacity will be approximately 2.265 megawatts of solar energy and offset 2.2 tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually. This is enough energy to power 217 homes which should increase with each subsequent installation.
“We will have one of the largest publicly housed solar power system in the state,” said Steve Brown, Town of Cary Public Works & Utilities Director. “Being able to partner with FLS Energy gives us the ability to create revenue for the Town while generating more renewable energy.”
Once Phase I is complete, the Town, along with FLS Energy, will evaluate the possibility of further installations to be located at the North Cary Water Reclamation Facility, the Cary/Apex Water Treatment Facility and the Garmon Operations Center on James Jackson Avenue.
The partnership with FLS Energy, not only saves the Town of Cary the cost of installation and maintenance, but will generate income for the Town by leasing the Cary properties at the Town Hall Campus Parking Deck and South Cary Water Reclamation facility to FLS.
Over the lease period, there will be no direct cost to the Town of Cary. FLS Energy will install, operate and maintain the system. FLS Energy will pay the Town approximately $0.02 per watt of installed capacity. Based on the anticipated capacity of the system and this lease rate, the Town will generate as much as $45,000 per year in general revenue for use of the lease sites.
The Town will lease these sites to FLS Energy for at least 6 years and up to 20 years. At that time, the value of the project to the Town of Cary will be considered. The Town will evaluate the performance of the system throughout its life cycle and make a recommendation to the purchase of the equipment, or termination of the contract, at a later date. After approximately six years, the Town will have the option to purchase the equipment at a depreciated amount.