Morgan Hill City Council

Two more high-traffic city facilities will receive a face-lift
and lower energy bills with the installation of solar power systems
in the coming months, city staff said.
Two more high-traffic city facilities will receive a face-lift and lower energy bills with the installation of solar power systems in the coming months, city staff said.

The city will proceed to power the Aquatics Center on Condit Road and the police station on Vineyard Boulevard with the sun’s energy, via a 20-year purchase agreement with Borrego Solar.

The contract is part of a larger agreement in which other jurisdictions in Santa Clara County are participating with Borrego for similar projects, Morgan Hill program administrator Anthony Eulo said.

The city council’s 4-1 decision last Wednesday to enter the agreement follows a decision earlier this year to enter into a separate contract with Cupertino Electric to install a $2.5-million system at the Centennial Recreation Center on West Edmundson Avenue.

A key difference between the two agreements is that Borrego will own the systems the company installs at the police station and Aquatics Center; the city will own the system at the CRC.

The city will purchase electricity from Borrego to power the two facilities at a potentially much lower cost than it now pays PG&E for power, city staff said. Based on historical yet unpredictable rate increases imposed by PG&E, the Borrego deal could save as much as $500,000 in energy costs over the next 20 years.

The city currently pays about $179,000 per year in combined electricity costs at the police station and Aquatics Center.

Equally important to the city’s environmental agenda, the project will also offset the local carbon footprint by using more renewable energy, city staff said.

Rebates applied for by the city earlier this year helped reduce the fixed cost it will pay Borrego for solar power.

As part of the project, the city will replace the roof of the police station in order to support the solar panels. The current roof is in disrepair, and a new roof will cost up to $280,000, city staff said.

Voting against the project was council woman Marilyn Librers, who said the deal “doesn’t make good business sense.” She balked at locking the city into a 20-year deal, chiefly because solar power technology could improve and become even more efficient before the contract runs out while the city is stuck with older, more expensive technology.

Plus, it is hard to believe that PG&E rates, without solar, will rise as much as staff predicted, Librers said. The savings calculation presented to the council assumes that PG&E’s rate for the city will rise by 4 percent per year, while Borrego will charge the city a 3-percent annual rate escalation.

If PG&E rates rise at a slower rate for the next 20 years, the city’s savings could be much lower, or perhaps even non-existent, Librers said.

The solar power project at CRC is scheduled to begin in September, Eulo said.

That project will end up saving the city about $100,000 annually in electricity costs, according to Eulo. Plus, it will employ local people as Cupertino Electric employs several Morgan Hill residents.

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Michael Moore is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor for the Morgan Hill Times, Hollister Free Lance and Gilroy Dispatch since 2008. During that time, he has covered crime, breaking news, local government, education, entertainment and more.


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