Seeing the light

There were already plenty of reasons not to build a solar farm on city property across the freeway, most of them economic. So it might come as a surprise that, even in the face of yet another reason not to build — this one environmental — the City Council voted to invite proposals from private companies interested in constructing a solar project there.

But the detailed, market-based results of that Request for Proposals could unplug the project once and for all, which might be for the best.

The city acquired the former Imperatrice property in 1996, planning to spread effluent from the wastewater treatment plant there. That plan was scrapped.

When Ashland voters approved the 10X20 plan, committing the city to obtaining 10 percent of its power from new, clean, local sources by 2020, backers pushed the idea of building a solar array there to generate electricity.

It was an enticing idea, except that virtually all of Ashland’s electricity is already clean, green hydroelectric power from the Bonneville Power Administration, the city is contractually obligated to buy BPA power through 2028, and power from a solar array would be 50 percent to three times more expensive than BPA power.

Add to that the risks to the habitat of a rare sparrow and two species of plants, and the project looks even less inviting.

We suspect any proposals the city receives will show the project to be too expensive to justify, given that it wouldn’t improve the city’s carbon footprint and would threaten wildlife habitat.

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