Alachua approves two power contracts

The Alachua City Commission unanimously approved two contracts for bulk power supply with Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU) and Florida Municipal Power Agency (FMPA) after opening its second substation earlier this year.

The action occurred at the commission’s regular meeting on Monday night.

The contract with GRU lasts from April 1, 2022, until Dec. 31, 2026, at a constant price of $42 per megawatt hour, supplying roughly half of Alachua’s power needs. The current contract ends March 31, 2022, and has a rate of $58 per megawatt hour.

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With FMPA, Alachua entered a contract from April 1, 2022, until Dec. 31, 2027, staggering its ending dates between suppliers. The rate fluctuates depending on market conditions, primarily natural gas prices, but is projected to stay around $42-$44 per megawatt hour.

In the past, GRU has supplied Alachua’s full energy needs, with five agreements since 1992. The new Legacy Substation allows the city to split the supply, increasing reliability by adding a supplier.

The two substations work on the same network, so if power from one goes down, the other station can cover for it. The new addition also increases the power grid coverage area as Alachua continues to expand.

“I think it’s awesome, myself, that we’re going to have so many options,” Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper said at the commission meeting. “I mean we’ve been looking for this for many, many years and here it is, right here. I just can’t thank everybody enough for the hard work that they’ve done.”

At the meeting, City Manager Adam Boukari said the new contracts represent a wholesale reduction in electricity costs to Alachua and the new substations allow the city to better negotiate.

“We’re really happy to show that the city is really forward thinking and trying to make sure we diversify in all areas,” Boukari said to the commission.

The city held a ribbon cutting ceremony for the $5.7 million substation in April, and in June, the site came online.

Through a 2018 contract with FMPA, the city will also diversify the type of energy received once its solar project enters service in 2023. The contract also includes 15 other cities, including Ocala and Newberry.

Once all five solar sites in the project are operating, the facilities will produce 375 megawatts of electricity for the 16 partner cities, enough to power 157 homes for a year, according to FMPA.

Solar power remains an important topic in Alachua County. In early July, the Board of County Commissioners turned down a solar project planned for Archer after a meeting that extended past midnight due to public comments.

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