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Greenbank solar project losing leasee

A leasee with the Greenbank Farm’s community solar project is terminating its lease at the end of the year.

Newport Partners, which is operating under NEF-Greenbank Farm LLC, sent notice of termination June 26 after Port of Coupeville commissioners declined  to sign a power purchase agreement.

In March, Newport Partners, a California-based group, presented the board with the agreement, which would change the project to a net metering system.

After reviewing the agreement and consulting with an attorney, the board declined to change to a net metering system because there was a possibility at times it could end up costing the port money.

“The port did not want to take on the risk of potentially losing money,” said Tim McDonald, executive director for the Port of Coupeville. “Power prices are unpredictable.

“The board is conscience of doing the right thing for the port.”

McDonald said that the port also couldn’t enter into that type of agreement because of how management at Greenbank Farm is set up.

The contract would require the entity that pays the bills at the farm to sign.

The port doesn’t pay utilities at the farm; the Greenbank Farm Management group does.

Newport Partners’ lease is up at the end of 2014 and the group is offering to let the port purchase the equipment it already invested into the project for $135,000. That cost includes sales tax, engineering services and insurance costs.

At this time the board has no interest in purchasing the equipment, said Commissioner Marshall Bronson.

The port is, however, requesting Newport Partners provide an itemized list of the equipment they currently have installed.

This is so the port can make sure equipment from other leasees isn’t accidentally removed, McDonald said.

Greenbank Farm has six, 1/6 acre lots dedicated to community solar, McDonald said.

Currently, there are three groups leasing those lots.

Cascade Community Wind and Solar out of Bellevue leased three lots in 2011.

Island Community Solar, a Whidbey Island based group, leased two lots in 2010 and in mid-2012 Newport Partners leased one lot and took over two lots from Cascade Community Wind and Solar.

The port charges $200 per lot, per year and also receives 1 percent of the leasees’ gross energy sales as well as 1 percent of the state and federal incentives they receive.

Of the six lots, only three of them are currently operational.

While the framework is in place for the three lots leased by Newport Partners, the group had yet to install panels and start generating energy.

There is the potential for Newport Partners to sell all of its investment and transfer its lease to another group.

McDonald said the port would be open to having another group lease the three lots if Newport Partner does walk away completely.

Commissioner Bill Larsen emphasized that Newport Partners terminating its lease will not affect the community solar program.

“The array will continue to function,” he said. “It will remain intact, just on a smaller scale.”

 

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