City of Alachua approves solar contract 

Alachua City Hall
Alachua City Hall
Photo by Seth Johnson

The Alachua City Commission approved a new solar power purchase agreement with NovaSol on Monday. The agreement is expected to result in a solar plant of up to 30 acres, producing around 10,000,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) per year for the next 30 years. 

The purchase agreement leaves NovaSol with the burden of designing, permitting, constructing and running the new plant. The city will bear no cost, but will provide the land for the solar facility, and will be obligated to purchase the energy produced. 

“I’m so glad we’re moving forward with this again,” Mayor Gib Coerper said. “I’m just really happy to see that, and especially being local like that.” 

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In its last Intent to Negotiate, the city included a solicitation for solar facilities. That solicitation received only one response, from NovaSol. 

In its contracted facility with NovaSol, the city expects to produce 11,628,000 kWh in its first contract year, eventually working its way down to 9,802,188 kWh in the 30th and final year of the contract. Alachua will have the opportunity to extend the contract up to two times, five years at a time. 

“Our Florida sun is what makes Alachua such a beautiful place to live, work and play,” Rodolfo Valladares, the city of Alachua’s director of public services, said. “We are committed to keeping it that way by advancing the use of solar energy in our community. We’re making the most of Florida sunshine, turning it into clean energy and using it to power our home or business.” 

Valladares said this diversification of the city’s energy portfolio would help protect ratepayers from possible price spikes in the traditional energy market. Because natural gas prices are subject to change, the price for consumers is unpredictable. Valladares called solar power a stable alternative. 

City staff also listed demand costs and renewable energy credit (REC) savings as advantages of solar energy in the agenda summary. 

The city currently pays an extra “demand cost” to its power supply and transmission service contractors, based on its peak demand—the maximum energy used in any one hour over the course of the month. Adding solar as an energy source will reduce the city’s use of other suppliers, lowering its peak demand from those sources, thus lowering the demand cost. 

A solar facility also opens new opportunities to sell RECs to utilities which do not meet their local standards for use of renewable energy. These facilities have the option to buy credits for $4 to $7, each one representing one megawatt hour of renewable energy. 

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Here’s hoping the contract has stipulated the costs allowed for the responsibilities taken by NovaSol. There are a lot of unexpected costs that can suddenly appear, and many that will just slowly add up over the months and years – turning into huge expenses that will affect the cost of purchased power.

Erwin Wood

Our government is going to shackle the taxpayers of Alachua County with a contract to buy power from a private entity.