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Delta County invests in solar panels

ESCANABA — Delta County will buy 500 solar panels from the city of Escanaba.

The decision was officially made during a meeting of the Delta County Board of Commissioners Tuesday. At the meeting, Glendon Brown — the vice chairperson of Escanaba’s electrical advisory committee — spoke about the city’s solar energy farm, which is located at the Delta County Airport. The facility has been operating since August 2018, and will be growing larger soon.

“Last Thursday, the city council approved the electric department going ahead with an expansion out there at the same site,” Brown said. The expansion will add 1,458 panels to the solar energy farm for a total of 4,968 panels, and will increase the facility’s maximum capacity from 0.9 megawatts AC to 1.29 megawatts AC.

Brown also spoke about the cost savings associated with solar energy. People and organizations that buy panels at Escanaba’s solar energy farm receive credits on their electric bills.

“The credit that you get is based on the avoided cost the city has because we have this,” he said.

As part of Delta County’s land lease agreement with the city for the land where the solar energy farm is located, the county had an exclusive option to buy up to 500 panels through June 30, 2019. Delta County’s estimated annual billing credit from the 500 panels it had an option on was $15,255, or about 67 percent of the Delta County Service Center’s 2018 electric bill.

Buying the panels is expected to cost Delta County $203,500. Delta County Administrator Philip Strom said he felt buying panels would be a good investment for the county, and estimated the rate of return on the panels as being 7 percent over the county’s 25-year contract with the city.

“That is better than what our investments currently do,” he said.

He went on to ask board members how many panels they would like the county to purchase. A motion to buy 500 panels was unanimously approved.

In other business, the board:

– gave Strom and Delta County Airport Manager Jeffrey Sierpien permission to work with airport consulting engineers to develop and release a request for qualifications for a new provider of mechanical services at the airport. The current provider of these services at the airport, M&M Aviation, is set to leave on June 30.

– heard about a timber sale at Pinecrest Medical Care Facility, a clean-up project for the Escanaba River and Wells Township, the state’s approval of a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant for work at Rapid River Falls Park, and other park projects from Delta Conservation District Executive Director Rory Mattson.

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