The Pipestone City Council during its July 20 meeting approved with a 4-1 vote subscribing to a solar garden that will be built along North Hiawatha Avenue. Councilor Jim Stout cast the lone no vote.
According to the agreement between the city and Minnesota-based Novel Energy Solutions, the city will receive a $.01 per kilowatt hour savings on the 530,737 kilowatt hours of electricity each year to which it subscribed, creating an estimated savings of $5,307 a year. The agreement is for a term of 25 years and the city may terminate the agreement at any time after 10 years without penalty by giving 24 months notice.
The 1.4 megawatt (MW) community solar garden will be built on city-owned land between the Pipestone County Family Services building and the cityâ€™s tree dump. The city approved a conditional use permit allowing the site on Jan. 21 and approved a lease agreement with Pipestone City Solar, LLC in September. Pipestone City Solar, a subsidiary of Novel Energy Solutions, will pay the city $1,000 per year per acre of land for approximately 10 acres out of a 33.14 acre parcel the city owns at 1369 N. Hiawatha. The rent will increase 1 percent annually. The city previously leased the land for agricultural use at $196 per acre.
The solar installation will consist of fixed tilt panels that follow the sun through the course of the day. At their highest when tipped, the panels will be 9 feet above the ground and when laying flat will be 3.5 feet above the ground. Electrical inverters on the back of the arrays collect the power and transfers it via lines that are largely buried.
Nick Woods, with Novel Energy Solutions, said the site is expected to be fully operational in December or early 2021. Once itâ€™s completed, Xcel Energy will purchase the power generated by the solar garden.
The city of Pipestone subscribed to another solar garden through Geronimo Energy in 2016. That agreement was also for 25 years. Subscriptions to community solar gardens are limited to 120 percent of the customerâ€™s average annual energy use and the city subscribed to 101 percent of its average annual use through Geronimo Energy. Geronimo estimated that the city would save $14,271.50 during the first year of that agreement. Jones said that subscription had saved the city approximately $6,000 from the first of this year through May.
In other business, the city council:
â€¢Approved with a 4-1 vote the purchase of a portable generator for the water department for $42,000 to replace an existing generator that is over 40 years old. Councilor Dan Delaney cast the lone vote against the purchase.
City Administrator Jeff Jones said the generator would be used during power outages to power the cityâ€™s lift station. The purchase was not budgeted, but Jones said there are funds available for equipment in the water budget.
Delaney said the city might have access to other portable generators for emergency use and asked if Water/Wastewater Superintendent Joel Adelman had looked into other options. Jones said Adelman wanted to purchase a generator so his department would have it at the ready if needed during a power outage.
â€¢Held its annual budget public hearing during which community members can comment on the next yearâ€™s budget. No comments were received before or during the hearing. Jones said the next step in the budget process is for he and City Treasurer LeNae Scholten to meet with department heads to discuss their budgets. The city council will discuss the 2021 budget at upcoming meetings between now and when it must adopt the preliminary 2021 tax levy at the end of September.