ROCKVILLE – Watch out, Mr. Burns. Here comes the sun.
On Monday, the City Council voted to allow city environmental officials to start negotiating a contract to lease solar power panels for the Gude maintenance facility.
If the deal with SolarCity happens, this would be a first for the city government.
The only renewable energy source used by the city government is a geothermal center at Thomas Farm, according to Erica Shingara of the city’s Environmental Management Division.
Panels at Gude are due to be up and running on top of parking spaces by the end of 2016. They would supply energy just to the site instead of pumping electricity back through the grid.
While Gude would be the first city-run site with the solar panels, a feasibility study for the city recommended additional sites at Thomas Farm Community Center, Mattie Stepanek Park and the swim ad fitness center.
Solar power isn’t new to Montgomery County: There are already purchase agreement projects in Poolesville, Takoma Park and the county’s transfer station.
“It is the county’s contract,” said Council member Beryl Feinberg, noting the city is “piggybacking” on the county’s deal with SolarCity.
One potential benefit of the Gude solar project is it includes an estimated expense reduction of $13,000 for the site out of a cost of $150,000 the city currently uses.
Nonrenewable energy from the grid would still pump through the site, just at roughly two-thirds of the cost for the current rate, according to a city document.
It also states the project would lead to a reduction of carbon dioxide emissions equating 50 passenger vehicles or 198 acres of forest.
Rockville’s government is still well short of meeting its 20 percent renewable energy goal. The Gude site would bring the number up to 8 percent.
The solar canopy project includes a solar power purchase agreement in which the city has no up-front capital cost and pays the provider a fixed rate for solar generated electricity for a 20-year period.
SolarCity, in turn, receives monthly payment from the city for electricity generated, a federal tax credit and a state rebate.
The company would also design, finance, install own, operate and maintain the solar project on city land.
“I just want to say how excited I am that the city is finally going solar,” said Council member Julie Palakovich Carr, who served two terms on the city’s environment commission and introduced the motion for approval Monday. “I think this is a great step forward, and hopefully the tax credits will be extended in the future and we’ll have future opportunities as well.”