Plymouth turning to solar power for help with costs

The Village of Plymouth is turning to solar power to help decrease distribution rates for electricity. The field of panels is up and running.

Tom Rusynyk, village administrator, said the idea came after he and former mayor Tim Redden attended a conference. A vendor explained the advantage to using solar panels.

What sold them on the project, according to Rusynyk were the savings on capacity and transmission costs. The two village officials were ready to move forward. The company estimates the village can save approximately $70,000 a year.

Rusynyk said the seven-acre field is on land the village owns. The village had to pay for the pole line, the interconnect from the field to the grid and engineering, supplies and labor at a cost of $55,000, which came out of the electric fund. The village should be able to recoup that in the first year.

Fryman said the money was earmarked for the project.

The savings on electric bills will become apparent in the future. He added it will have a lot to do with the weather.

“It’s producing now,” he pointed out. “The power is going to the grid. It’s a supplemental power supply for the village. It feels good to have it done.”

There are always good points and sometimes bad points to plans. Rusynyk said he has not seen anything negative with the addition of the solar field.

“There’s a myriad of pros,” he explained. “The green energy. The savings to the village.”

By going green, Plymouth Mayor Cassandra Fryman said the village may be able to qualify for grants for maintenance.

Workers broke ground in February for the field. Rusynyk said it went online two weeks ago. A company came in to install contracting  the solar panels.

 Rusynyk said he has been working with utilities for seven years. The solar field is something new for him.

“I think this is a really good step forward for us as a community,” Fryman pointed out. “I would like to see this be not just a final complete project but a first step to innovating more assets of our community. I like to think this will be a successful push forward. I think this is just a really good way to highlight what happens when you look into different alternatives to solve our problem.”

Rusynyk said the entire solar field is monitored. The company that installed the panels, E Tree Foundry, is charged with taking care of them.

“We own the land,” he pointed out. “They own everything on it. We signed a 30-year power purchase agreement. Going forward, we will probably amend the maintenance agreement  for certain things, but they are going to handle the majority of it.”

The location, Rusynyk pointed out, was chosen because it was conducive to solar energy. The lack of trees and buildings was a major plus.

The panels are each 3x5-feet and are on a tracking system, he noted. The roughly 3,400 panels automatically follow the sun throughout the day.

Installing the panels was much harder than expected, according to Rusynyk. It was more complicated than he expected, noting there is a lot that goes into installing the panels and going online.

“We started out running a study with AEP (American Electric Power),” he explained. “It was to make sure we don’t push power back into their grid. That took seven months to do that study. It was surprising that it took that long to do the study.

“Then, there was the logistics of getting all of the supplies and getting everybody here,” Rusynyk added. “It’s a long, drawn out process.”

Fryman said the village has been having conversations with residents.

“A lot of them are focusing on their bill ultimately,” she explained. “That is an important thing to take into mind, but really where this is going to benefit us is with operational expenses and costs from increasing down the road.

“This may not be so much of a cost saving measure now,” Fryman pointed out, “It’s more of a preemptive measure because this will help us cut costs and reduce raises down the road.”

Residents will not see any increase from the installation of the solar field. Rusynyk said any increase would be from AEP.

Fryman said she hopes other municipalities, especially those the size of Plymouth, look at such an endeavor with their own eyes to their future.

“I hope that we can even become the example,” she noted, “for the communities around us that haven’t utilized solar power. Especially when it can help them save on their budgets and save costs as well. We are open to discussing with communities about our project if they are interested.”

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