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Greenbank Farm solar project sees new life
A half-complete solar energy project at the Greenbank Farm looks to be moving forward again.
Kelly Keilwitz, owner of Whidbey Sun and Wind, approached the commissioners for the Port of Coupeville Wednesday with a plan to eventually finish the project while helping local nonprofits at the same time.
“As you well know, we have a bunch of bare racks at the Greenbank Farm,” Keilwitz said to the commissioners.
In 2011, the three commissioners designated one acre of land at the publicly owned farm for solar energy production.
Three entities came forward to install solar arrays at the farm with the hopes of taking advantage of a community solar energy state production incentive of up to $1.08 per kilowatt hour.
Two investor groups formed and were able to install arrays on half of the land. Those arrays produce 75 kilowatts of electricity. The third investment group known as Newport Equity Fund, which is based in California and leased the other half of the property, wasn’t able to come up with a list of investors that could pass muster with the state. Half of the racks at the Greenbank Farm have sat empty.
Keilwitz said Whidbey Sun and Wind has negotiated a buyout for the lease and the improvements the investment group made on the property.
Sun and Wind staff have to find investors as soon as possible to participate in the community solar project. The state production incentive that makes the project an attractive investment expires in 2020. Keilwitz said as that date approaches there will be a lower return in investment.
To attract interest in the project, he is hoping people would invest on behalf of charitable organizations. A charity will receive a share of the project, which would provide nonprofits with a new funding source through 2020.
“We think its going to be attractive to donors,” said Paul Dickerson, operations manager for Whidbey Sun and Wind.
Port commissioner Marshall Bronson questioned whether Whidbey Sun and Wind has found a receptive audience to the proposal.
Sun and Wind staff started developing their plan about a month ago. Keilwitz said he reached to to nonprofit leaders and the plan is currently going through legal review.
Bronson added that the port should make sure the state reviews and approves Whidbey Sun and Wind’s plan and list of investors.
Fellow commissioner Benye Weber suggested asking a state legislator to contact the state Attorney General’s Office for assistance.
Dickerson said he didn’t know yet how long it will take to round up suitable investors. But once the money is found, installation of the final panels would take about three weeks.
“We’ve got all the pieces in place except for funding,” Dickerson said. Once complete the new panels will produce 75 kilowatts and generate around $95,000 in revenue per year. The Port of Coupeville receives $200 a year plus 1 percent of revenue.
For more information about Whidbey Sun and Wind, go to www.whidbeysunwind.com