Solar plan stalls with no location

With the location in Archer off the table, the Gainesville City Commission still needs a location for its new solar farm contract with Origis Energy.

Now, Origis must decide what to do.

“Effectively, the ball is in Origis’ court to perform in accordance with the contract,” Edward Bierlarski, general manager for GRU, said at Thursday’s commission meeting.

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The contract for the solar farm requires the company to find a site to build on for a set price. Archer has been the focus of that search, but local residents pushed back on the effort.

Last month the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) denied an Origis application to purchase a 638-acre tract of land for a solar farm in Archer.

Property owners from Archer showed up for Thursday’s meeting to ensure the city commission knew that the property was off limits according to the BOCC.

Similar to the previous meeting, the residents told the commission how they didn’t want the solar farm in their backyard and were tired of attending meetings for so long about the issue.

After the meeting, Nathan Skop, attorney for 42 parcel owners in Archer, said he was hoping the city commission would take affirmative action, completely reassuring the residents that Origis Energy would not build on the land.

Nathan Skop speaks to the Gainesville City Commission

“What my clients would have liked to [have] seen today would have been the city enact a resolution stating affirmatively that the project would not be sited on the parcel that the county denied,” Skop said. “I’m not sure we have that assurance.”

During the meeting, Mayor Lauren Poe said the commission can’t overrule the county.

“We not only aren’t trying to do that; we can’t do that,” Poe said at the meeting. “The property that y’all are talking about, that’s not an option.”

Commissioner David Arreola echoed those sentiments.

“We are not trying to overrule the county decision,” he said. “That is their decision; that is their choice, and you all participated in that.”

In December, Origis can opt out of the contract if the company cannot get financing based on the changing circumstances. But until then, the city commission said it’s still owed 50 megawatts of solar energy for the agreed upon price.

Bierlarski told the commission that Origis would like to move forward with increased pricing caused by not being able to use the Archer parcel.

“Our response to them was no,” Bierlarski said. “We will not increase prices under the contract. We have a valid, binding, enforceable contract.”

Poe backed up that statement.

“The sooner that we can find a suitable location and [Origis] can do it at the price we agreed to, and not anything more, the sooner we can be done,” Poe said.

If Origis opts out in December though, the commission will have to start from scratch.

The Gainesville City Commission approved the contract with Origis Energy in July 2020 after a solicitation process. The solar farm is part of the city’s plan to be 100 percent renewable energy powered by 2045.

Archer residents and attorney Nathan Skop

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story said Origis proposed solar in Archer that the BOCC denied in 2020. That proposed farm was from a different company. 

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