By Reann Huber staff writer
The Morgan County’s Solar Power Project has stalled, after negotiations with a third party investor, Navin Patel, fell apart earlier this year. Last summer, the Morgan County Board of Commissioners unanimous voted to install solar panels on the Morgan County Public Safety Complex in order to offset power bill costs. The county had hoped for the project to be completed by Jan. 1, 2016. The county was eager to become the first county in Georgia to take advantage of the state’s new House Bill 57, which allows a third-party investor to provide investment capital to the project in return for tax benefits. But now the county will take a step back to reevaluate all the options. “It would be great for us to be the first county in Georgia to do this, but we don’t want to be the first county to do it wrong,” said Christian Henry, county attorney. The county was set to sign on to at 35-year agreement with Solar Sun World, owned and operated by Josef Kullmann of Madison, to install and maintain solar panels on county facilities through a Power Purchasing Agreement (PPA). Henry was tasked with reviewing the PPA with Solar Sun World before finalizing a set rate for the county to lock into for the next 35 years. According to Solar Sun World last summer, the county’s rate would stay between 9 and 12 cents per kilowatt-hour for the entirety of the PPA.
According to Solar Sun World, Georgia Power’s rates could rise higher than 20 cents per kilowatt-hour in the next 35 years. Right now, the county pays a range from 9.5 cents per kilowatt hour to 18 cents per kilowatt hour to Georgia Power, depending on the facility. However, according to County Manager Michael Lamar, the third party investor dropped out and the county began to doubt if this plan was actually the best deal possible. “Negotiations with our third party investor sort of broke down,” said Lamar to county commissioners at Tuesday’s regular meeting. “We should open this up for dialogue to determine how we wish to proceed.” The county tasked Henry with putting out a bid to find an alternative third party investor, hoping the bidding competition would yield the best deal available. “We have to protect the interests of Morgan County first,” said Commissioner Ellen Warren. “This is such a new project and concept in the state that there is not a lot of history to fall back on. We think we need to cover all our bases and put this out to bid to see what we can get.” Warren also noted that she believes that within 10 years, solar power will be in every county. The BOC committed to doing their due diligence in researching this matter, but will hold off and moving forward until they are more certain. “I don’t want to be the first county to mess it up,” said Commissioner Andy Ainslie. “I want to walk through this slowly and make sure we do it right.” Henry committed to having the bid proposal ready by mid-April.