Steenbergen Shines Ray of Sunshine on Solar for Granite Shoals

steenbergenclementspaulding.jpgFor almost a year Mike Steenbergen has been fighting an uphill battle to get the City of Granite Shoals and its governing Council to research and consider solar power options. On Tuesday night Steenbergen, candidate for Mayor, along with Jim Spaulding, PEC Director of Project Development Energy Services, presented various options to the City Council meeting.
Steenbergen was promoting two ideas - one to create a municipal electric utility based on solar power and two to create a team of local professionals to research solar options. The team would participate in the SunShot Community Solar competition offered by the Department of Energy. He encouraged engaging adjacent landowners to participate in exploring what is being called the "new oil" as prices have dropped to competitive levels with fossil fuels. He also drew attention to EPA reclamation assistance for placing solar installations in former mining areas that may apply to some city properties. He mentioned various Federal grant programs that encourage solar development including USDA and Department of Energy programs.
Steenbergen ended his presentation by saying that PEC Board Member Cristi Clement described the challenges for a small municipal utility as almost insurmountable. Clement offered other options and Steenbergen admitted his proposal was not feasible based on her explanation of Franchise fee costs for a municipal utility. He did continue to recommend that a team be formed to research solar power and available funds. Ms Clement did offer other new options and Steenbergen introduced PEC Representative Jim Spaulding to explain them.
Spaulding, with extensive experience in solar array deployments and Federal grant writing discussed the new evolution of PEC's distributed solar efforts. He is part of a program form PEC that is selecting 15 different one-megawatt solar arrays from their service area. The cost for development is free for the City and a revenue stream for providing the land is generated for the City. Spalding also mentioned the prospect of lower utility bills because of the competitive price of green energy in the current market. The second program Spaulding mentioned was a new offer by PEC for members to sign up for lower cost green energy. This innovative effort should give electricity users the option of choosing to subscribe to lower cost or at least equal cost green energy. Granite Shoals is the first City to officially hear of the program in a formal PEC presentation to a governing Board though the Coop has provided the information in recent press releases.
Mr. Spaulding ended by mentioning the Department of Energy SunShot Solar Initiative would have another chance to participate next year. He encouraged this kind of local engagement about solar energy. While the 15 sites have been allocated for the first phase of the new distributed solar program, Spaulding encouraged Granite Shoals participation in the next round of site selections. In regard to the challenges of installing solar arrays in the Granite of the Llano Uplift, Steenbergen mentioned alternative methods used locally and Spalding deferred to RES, the actual solar array construction firm, to determine if the installation was economically feasible.
Pictured are Jim Spaulding on the left, Cristi Clement in the middle, and Mike Steenbergen to the right. Also pictured are the present City Council members and Jim Spaulding presenting.