Albert Rukwaro
Special to The Gardner News
A solar energy feasibility study was approved by the Gardner City council during their June 3 meeting.
The council authorized the city to spend up to $15,000 for a study to establish the feasibility of a solar energy farm in the city.
Gonz Garcia, utilities director, said over the past few years the city has been approached by various solar energy developers inquiring about the city’s interest in establishing a solar facility.
“Around the country, many cities and utility providers are looking to community solar projects as a means to bringing renewable energy option to interested customers,” he said.
Solar energy provides several advantages, he said, including as a long term hedge over future energy costs, reducing carbon emissions, “free” fuel and low maintenance costs.
He said the only way to know the costs and benefits of the project was by conducting a feasibility study.
Randy Gregorcyk, councilmember, opposed the motion saying the city is already spending a lot of money on various other feasibility studies.
“There’s a lot of money being tied up in studies,” he said. “Currently we have $144,000 in studies. It is not timely. We should kick this can down the road,” he said.
Steve Shute, mayor, however warned that if the council postpones a decision on the matter the city may end up facing a time crunch later.
Mark Baldwin, councilmember, said it would be worth conducting the study now rather than two years later when it would be more expensive, a sentiment that was supported by Rich Melton, councilmember, who said the land on which such a project would stand would be more expensive later if the city decides to proceed with the project.
Mathew Wolff, finance director, said the cost of the study is not budgeted in this year’s general fund but that the city’s electric fund has a large enough balance to absorb the cost of the study.