Beaver Dam Could See More Solar Arrays On City-Owned Buildings

(Beaver Dam) More solar power could be coming to Beaver Dam. The Common Council Monday night approved a memorandum of understanding with Bluestem Energy Solutions. The company would be placing solar panels at the Wastewater Treatment Plant on Myrtle Road and the lift station on County Road G at Cemetery Road. The agreement would be for 30 years and would cost the city seven-tenths of a penny per kilowatt hour with an escalator of 1.5-percent.

Beaver Dam currently pays around $800-thousand dollars per year for power at city-owned sites. Under this agreement, Beaver Dam is expected to save $2.1-million dollars over three decades. There are no upfront costs for the city.

Energy Consultant Jake Griggs with Bluestem told the council that any costs for upgrading solar equipment throughout the years would be covered by the company.

Another site being considered is the library. Beaver Dam already has solar arrays at the police department and city hall in separate agreements with a different company. The matter is not a done deal and still requires additional approvals from the council as work starts in earnest on the project.

In a statement, Mayor Becky Glewen says:

“The basics of the contract with Bluestem is to enable the City of Beaver Dam to move forward with its Energy Independent Community Commitment in a cost-effective, fiscally responsible manner. Wisconsin cities are fiscally strapped given restrictions from tax levy limits-  now, compounded with the inability to use third-party financing and leverage the free-market to fully fund renewable energy projects.

Third-party financing, currently held up in the court system, was used successfully by WI local governments since 2014. It leveraged the private sector’s ability to obtain a 30% Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit by funding the cost of solar installations for tax-exempt entities like local governments and schools, and providing annual energy savings to them through a fixed contract for the electricity produced.

Beaver Dam’s City Council committed to generate 35 % of its energy from renewable resources locally by 2025 for city operations in order to save tax-payer money, to attract and retain businesses and younger residents, and to safeguard public health and the environment. In the Energy Independent Community Plan from 2017, UW-Extension showed that the City spends $1 million annually to power city operations. Freeing up money from energy expenses, through using less costly solar electricity, allows the City to support other critical services while moving toward its other goals.

The contract with Bluestem Energy will enable the city to install solar PV on more of its facilities- with a total of 673 kW on the waste water treatment plant and lift station, with no up-front cost or operation and maintenance costs to the city and taxpayers over the life of the project. Further, the electricity produced will go directly to the buildings though a fixed-rate contract at a price lower than the utility rate for the electricity produced by the systems, with an escalation rate lower than historical increases (at 1.5% rather than 2.5%).

This contract with Bluestem is part of a bigger aggregated solar installation with potential local businesses that will bring a total of 2.1 MW of clean, solar energy to the City of Beaver Dam. This aggregation brings economies of scale to the developer, Bluestem so that it can provide the City with more favorable terms. And, it provides a unique, tangible opportunity for the city and our businesses to move together on a path toward a clean energy economy and future.”