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Pickneyville

Pinckneyville city clerk Larry West (left) makes opening remarks Friday as employees from Straight Up Solar (right) wait to help city officials ceremonially install the final solar panel in the city’s new array at their wastewater treatment facility.

PINCKNEYVILLE — The finishing touches were put on the city of Pinckneyville’s first solar array Friday and city clerk Larry West thinks it must be some kind of governmental record.

The project, installing a 428-kilowatt solar array on the city’s wastewater plant, started in June and will be online next week.

“It’s blown me away how quickly this went up,” West said. Of the process, he said getting the paperwork done and getting the decision through the City Council — it was a unanimous vote in favor — took the longest. But once construction started, he’s been pleasantly shocked every time he has visited the site.

“They started on this project about two weeks before Thanksgiving around Nov. 6,” he said.

West said it started with a phone call. Jessica Holder told him about Straight up Solar in Carbondale and about the zero investment needed by the city through a power purchasing agreement.

“I thought, ‘Yeah right. I’ve heard this before,’” West said. However, the more he looked into it, the more real it became. All the city had to do was pay to put a fence around the panels.

“We worked through the numbers, it’s going to save the taxpayers a lot of money over the long haul,” he said.

He said that savings will be half a million dollars over the next 25 years. This could go up, though. He said as a part of the PPA the tax incentives passed on from the city to Straight Up Solar will disappear in seven years. At that point, West said the city could purchase the array from the company at just 25 percent of the $900,000 — about $220,000.

“That would be an absolute no-brainer,” West said. If the city owned the panels themselves, the savings for taxpayers could increase.

West said he has already been looking to have more panels put up on city property using the same PPA model. Right now he is eyeballing the public library, the street department and economic development buildings. West also said he is in talks about putting a similarly sized array up on the new wastewater facility the city will begin constructing in the next year.

“I’m hoping that the residents see this as a good move with their tax dollars and a good move to help out their environment,” West said.

According to a news release from the city, the array will produce about 90 percent of the facility's power. 

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isaac.smith@thesouthern.com

618-351-5823

On Twitter: @ismithreports

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Isaac Smith is a reporter covering Jackson County.

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