Aurora Approves Lease Of Three City-owned Sites For Solar Energy Fields

Aurora Beacon-News: By Steve Lord

Aurora will get three solar energy fields that could result in residents saving money on their electric bills.

The fields also should bring to the city of Aurora between $441,097 and $825,643 a year in revenue for the next 40 years, and help reduce the city’s carbon footprint, officials said.

The City Council last week approved the lease of three city-owned sites for the solar fields. Two of the sites are at either end of a runway at the Aurora Municipal Airport, and the third site is in an encapsulated landfill site at Route 25 and Sullivan Road.

“With the increasing global focus on renewable energy sources, solar power has emerged as a viable and sustainable option,” said an executive summary from Progressive Business Solutions, the city’s energy consultant.

The city has been considering the solar fields for several years, but only recently has it been considered possible. City officials issued a request for bids and received six from solar energy companies.

The six bidders were: US Solar; SunCode Energy; NexAmp; Forefront; 548 Energy Solution; and GRNE Energy.

Progressive Business said the best bid came from SunCode Energy, “which incorporated the highest financial remuneration and a plan to lower electric costs for city residents.”

Bidders were required to submit a base case bid, and a best case scenario bid, which will depend on the capacity available on the ComEd substation, and interconnection costs.

Under the base case, SunCode would lease 30 acres at each of the airport sites, and 18 acres at Sullivan and Route 25. Under the best case, the company could lease up to 132 acres at one of the airport sites.

Chris Childress, of Progressive Business, said officials anticipate ComEd having enough capacity for the best case scenario.

“We’re looking at doing the best case,” he said.

SunCode is responsible for all the costs associated with building the solar panel fields and any other infrastructure. The city does not incur any cost.

According to the bid, all three properties, which currently are city-owned and generating no property taxes, will generate $232,834 in property taxes with the solar fields on them.

In addition, city residents will have the opportunity to subscribe to the solar fields, which would guarantee them a rate at least 15% lower than whatever the ComEd rate is. Low-income residents can subscribe at a rate of 50% lower than the ComEd rate, Childress said.

“We wanted to make sure to derive the most value for the city of Aurora taxpayer,” he said.

Over the planned 40-year lease of the properties, the city should see about $33 million in revenue, or about $825,643 a year, officials said.

The company should begin construction within two years, and have the community solar projects energized within three years, according to Progressive.