Local government

New solar farm project could translate into savings for city of Ontario

ONTARIO – A new solar farm north of Ontario near Malheur Drive could furnish cheaper power to the Ontario’s wastewater treatment plant and may save the city close to $50,000 a year.

The 20-acre, $8.5 million project north of Northwest Fourth Avenue consists of 7,760 solar panels in 36 rows and is projected to be finished later this year.

The project is estimated to generate 8 million kilowatt-hours a year.

The project is funded through a mix of grants, loans and private investment, said Ryan Sheehy, owner of Fleet Development of Enterprise. Fleet Development’s subsidiary, Verde Light Community Solar LLC, is spearheading the project.

The solar project is designed with several goals, said Sheehy, and all revolve around creating cheaper power and access to solar power for homeowners that can’t install panels on their roof and for entities such as the city of Ontario or low-income housing apartments.

Sheehy said plans now call for the city of Ontario to possibly subscribe for about 40 percent of the power from the solar farm and another 10 percent will be earmarked for low-income housing.

“The other 50% we are hoping to subscribe to local, small businesses or businesses that are a public service like a hospital or first responders. They are, I think, the ones with the least amount of access to solar power,” he said.

Sheehy said subscribers receive a price on power that is always at a discount of at least 5 percent from commercial rates.  

“It’s all handled through the bill mechanics of your Idaho Power bill,” said Sheehy.

The subscription service does not replace regular service from Idaho Power but enhances it, said Sheehy.

In other words, area customers will still need to use Idaho Power as their main source of electricity.

The solar farm is good for Idaho Power, said Sheehy.  “We are using private finances and federal dollars to build something that reduces the amount of infrastructure they have to build to meet Oregon clean energy standards,” said Sheehy.

By Oregon law, Idaho Power must provide a certain amount of renewable energy – energy to its customers each year.

The solar farm also will help Idaho Power in the future, said Sheehy.

“Oregon has some clean energy standards that are coming into play. By 2040 it has to be 100 percent renewable. In that is a requirement that some of it be locally generated,” said Sheehy.

Dan Cummings, Ontario city manager, said the plan to become a subscriber is a “no brainer” for the city.

“The benefit is the ability of the city to get supplemental power to our wastewater treatment plant,” he said.

Cummings said the city could subscribe to use 40% of the solar farm’s output at a 10% discount. If the city does subscribe to use 40% of farm’s output it could save up to $50,000 annually.

The city also agreed about a year ago for a $900,000 federal grant for the project. Once the city was notified it qualified for the grant, the money was passed onto the. project for construction. The grant did not furnish the city with a specific amount of power at no cost.

Cumming said the deal with Verde Light will help taxpayers.

“Saving citizens $50,000 is quite a feat. It helps keep our sewer rates from having to increase,” said Cummings.

The project is part of the community solar concept, where solar power flows to many customers within a specific geographic area.

“Community solar is a viable option if you’re a renter or share your roof enabling you to take advantage of low cost, renewable energy without installing panels on your property,” said Sheehy.

To find out more about this project, contact [email protected]

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]

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