OAKDALE -- The city and a corporate partner will explore producing solar energy at the city's waste-water treatment plant, even though the Modesto Irrigation District, which powers the plant, could stop the project.
The City Council voted 4-0 Tuesday to have Siemens, a global corporation whose businesses include the energy sector, conduct a $25,000 engineering study to determine whether a solar farm could be built at the treatment plant.
Oakdale is responsible for the cost of the study only if Siemens determines the project is feasible and the city decides to use another vendor.
Siemens proposes to install row upon row of solar panels on several acres at the waste-water treatment plant. Siemens would own the solar farm and lease it to the city for 20 years.
Oakdale would use the electricity generated by the solar panels to help power its treatment plant. City officials estimate the solar energy could produce a quarter of the plant's power needs.
Siemens estimates that Oakdale would save $850,000 to $1.88 million in electricity costs over the 20 years. After 20 years, Siemens could sell the plant to Oakdale or renew its lease, city officials said.
Although Oakdale would get cheaper, more environmentally friendly power, Siemens would get the federal tax credits that make the project financially attractive.
But the solar farm faces at least two hurdles with the MID.
The irrigation district does not approve projects in which the solar farm is owned by a non-MID customer. Councilwoman Kathy Morgan brought up this point at Tuesday's council meeting.
"It's a great project, a great idea," she said Thursday. "But we need to do some more legwork before we move forward."
Councilman Tom Dunlop said the MID may not yet have recouped its investment in the infrastructure it put in to provide electricity to the treatment plant.
MID spokeswoman Melissa Williams said Thursday that the utility does not support this type of project because of its concern that the solar farm operator could abandon the project. Wil- liams could not address Dunlop's concern.
Siemens officials told the council Tuesday that MID officials failed to respond to requests to discuss the project. Williams, though, said MID officials made several attempts to talk with Siemens officials, but they would not share any project details.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2316.
The Oakdale City Council at its Tuesday meeting:
Approved lending $344,000 from one city fund to another to pay for the relocation of a pipeline for a 15-acre subdivision planned for north of F Street and west of Stearns Road. The city had tried to use money from its former redevelopment agency to pay for the project, but the state recently disallowed the expenditure.
Approved amending a contract with SNG & Associates to have the consultant provide the city with more engineering services. Oakdale no longer has a registered professional engineer after recently firing its public works director and laying off its deputy public works director.
Approved a new contract with longtime City Attorney Tom Hallinan. Oakdale contracts with Hallinan for legal services. The contract pays him and his firm a $54,000 annual retainer; the city no longer will provide him with pension benefits. Hallinan is city attorney for other valley communities, including Riverbank and Patterson.
Heard from two residents concerned about a commercial development detailed in the Crane Crossing Specific Plan, a planning document for the commercial, retail and residential development of more than 250 acres at West F Street and Crane Road. The residents said the proposed commercial development is incompatible with the surrounding residential neighborhoods. As part of adopting this specific plan, Oakdale will hold public hearings to solicit input.