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Lathrop’s solar move may save $1 million

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POSTED November 22, 2013 11:33 p.m.

LATHROP – Let there be light.

At least that’s the idea if the solar panel projects that the Lathrop City Council got a better look at last week are successful.

Now that the City of Lathrop’s agreement with TerraVerde Renewable Partners is in place, it’s now a matter of picking and choosing the right configuration for the four sites within the city that will house the solar panels that officials believe will save the city upwards of $1 million over the course of a 25-year contract.

A trimmed-down version of the solar agreement was decided on last month,. The city’s biggest power-hog – the water treatment plant – was removed from the list of sites that initially called for a much-larger overall scale that would yield savings of $4 million.

After a meeting with TerraVerde and South San Joaquin Irrigation District General Manager Jeff Shields, the stripped down version came before a bare-bones council (only three members were present) and was unanimously approved.

The solar program will work like this – TerraVerde will secure outside financing for the project, and the company that backs the construction will retain ownership of the solar system for the next 25 years. Lathrop would in turn pay a flat rate for the electricity that it receives from the solar that’s generated and not have to incur the rather large expense of constructing the project on its own.

Based on PG&E’s rate increases over the years, a flat-rate for each kilowatt-hour could be a huge way to hedge future energy prices as the city once-again prepares for a wide period of expansion and growth.

Two of the sites that will receive solar panels – the Lathrop Community Center and Lathrop City Hall – will have the system built into a shade-type structure that are typically used when ground space is at a premium. The city’s corporation yard and the community pump station will both have ground-based systems – the Louise Avenue site constructed with paneling built four-feet off the ground sloping upward to eight-feet tall, and the community pump station site somewhat taller since it’s in a storm basin where water will be pumped.

The dimensions of the shade structure has yet to be determined after Vice Mayor Omar Ornelas suggested Monday that the proposal for the Community Center site might be more appropriate if it were located in the back portion of the parking lot rather than the front section that faces 5th Street.

TerraVerde Vice President Doug Stoecker said he’d gladly bring back a future model that showed various configurations.

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