Sandwich City Council approves pacts for solar field installation at wastewater plant

Sandwich Wastewater Treatment Facility located at 1120 E Church Rd.

Sandwich residents won’t see their city utility bills diminish, but the city’s electric bill will, should lease agreements approved at an April 25 meeting come to fruition.

In two separate, unanimous ballots during an April 25 meeting, the city council authorized Mayor Todd Latham to enter into a 25-year power purchase and lease agreement with GRNE Solarfield 10, LLC.

The agreements will allow GRNE to construct a 708-panel solar field on the city-owned wastewater treatment facility property, located on East Church Street just south of Route 34.

Latham said the planned solar field site is in a flood zone area.

Electricity generated by the solar field will help to power the wastewater treatment facility, reducing the city’s ComEd bill.

The city is projected to see a reduction of $15,000 in energy costs in the first year and save $402,319 total over the 25 year lease period, according to a report by Progressive Business Solutions, a consulting firm working with the city.

Arnie Schramel, managing partner with Progressive Business Solutions, said the solar field, once constructed, should require minimal maintenance and will save the city a good deal of money.

Latham said he believes the project will be very beneficial for the city, especially with the use of the flood zone land that would have otherwise continue to sit empty.

There are two more steps before the deal is official. First, GRNE must submit an application to be reviewed and approved by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Water Division, the Environmental Protection Agency, and Army Corps of Engineers.

Schramel said this process can take three to six months.

After that, an inter-connect agreement must be made between the city and ComEd.

Schramel said this step shouldn’t take long and upon completion, GRNE can begin constructing the solar field.

Schramel said the project is in the early stages and there is still no guarantee it will come to fruition, but he was confident in the project’s success, should these next two steps be completed.

GRNE is responsible for all preparation, approval, and construction costs, meaning the city won’t spend any money until the fields are approved, constructed and functional.

Upon completion, the city has agreed to purchase the energy generated, discounted at over 50%, which will be used to power the wastewater treatment facility.

Schramel said solar fields, once constructed, are relatively low maintenance, and GRNE will be responsible for all post production costs that arise.

The proposed solar field would produce roughly 60% of the plant’s required energy over a year’s time, a total of almost 400,000kWh, enough energy to power 40 homes for a year, according to Schramel.

Even though solar energy is a relatively new industry and he has yet to see a 25-year contract reach its expiration, Schramel said he is confident in the agreement, and said the fields can last more than 25 years.

He said the fact that the panels will be constructed in a flood zone, though it increases construction cost, takes some worry out of the equation as the land won’t be used for anything else anyway.