Medford plans 11,000-panel solar farm at sewage plant


Despite concerns by some City Council members, Medford has approved exploring construction of a 15-acre, 11,000-panel solar farm at the regional sewage treatment plant.

Jim Hill, Medford's water reclamation administrator, told the council about a draft proposal by SunEnergy, a Bend company that says it would find investors to pay for the 2 megawatt solar power plant.

SunEnergy would sell the electricity to the water reclamation plant for below commercial rates.

Councilman Jason Anderson asked if there is a downside.

"It almost seems like it's too good to be true," he said, asking if there were pitfalls such as glare produced by the panels.

Hill said he's been visiting and researching plants for months and has not found problems with this proposal.

"There aren't any fatal flaws," he said, adding that the panels are built to avoid glare.

"We couldn't find anything wrong with it." Hill said the water reclamation plant operates around the clock and needs a reliable energy source.

Councilman John Statler said he favors the plant even though it is large and unattractive.

"I'm sure if you're up on Table Rock, it'll appear in your visual scope," he said. He said he would be cautious about having numerous large-scale plants around Medford, but this one seemed like a good idea.

Hill said he hopes to pick a company by November.

A solar power company in Eugene has expressed an interest. Hill said the solar plant could produce electricity by the end of 2008.

The idea came about after Medford City Councilman Al Densmore approached SunEnergy Power Corp. and asked the company to submit a draft proposal.

The solar panels would generate about 80 percent of the power the water reclamation plant purchases from Pacific Power. There would be no capital or maintenance costs to the city. The plan is projected to save the city about $33,000 annually in its first year, $46,000 annually in its sixth year, and around $154,000 annually in its 30th year.

Cory Crebbin, public works director, told the council that from the city's standpoint, the project is driven by its cost-saving qualities.

"This is not about being green," he said. "The whole idea behind this is for our customers to pay lower rates. Any potential benefits are good side effects."

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