Mallory Herrmann

Lee’s Summit will be using solar power on a selection of city buildings and facilities. The city council voted to approve a 20-year agreement with MC Power to purchase, install and maintain solar arrays at more than a dozen locations throughout the city.

After the success of a pilot program in partnership with the city’s animal control facility, city staff began working with the council’s community and economic development committee (CEDC) at the end of 2018 to expand the solar initiative.

In addition to saving a projected 106,250 tons of CO2 over the 20-year program, the city expects to net approximately $1.77 million in savings through electricity costs, rebates and tax credits. The carbon reduction is the equivalent of planting 2,475,000 trees, recycling 325k tons of waste or not using 103,537,000 pounds of coal.

During their presentation to the council at their Aug. 6 meeting, MC Power showed annual solar services costs to the city of approximately $363,000. First-year energy savings are projected to be nearly $322,000 – in addition to about $384,000 in rebates from Kansas City Power and Light (KCPL) – creating an estimated $343,000 net to the city in the first year of the agreement.

MC Power will install either roof-mounted or ground-mounted solar arrays at each of 15 locations, including lift and pump stations, four of the fire stations, city hall and the Harris Park, Legacy Park and Longview community centers. An added benefit of the solar installations at the fire stations will be covered parking for firefighters, who will no longer have to deice or remove snow from their cars after long shifts during the winter.

The city will pay service charges for the use of the solar technology but will not lease or maintain the equipment. In fact, the city will not be permitted to touch the equipment unless in an emergency situation, such as to mitigate damage during a storm. The solar facilities can be moved by the city – if, for instance, a fire station or pump station were to close while the agreement is still in place – but the city will pay the same service charges regardless of whether all solar facilities are actively in use.

Councilmember Rob Binney raised concerns about entering into a 20-year agreement that does not guarantee savings for the city.

“So we’re kind of taking a gamble that solar energy is going to continue to be usable,” Binney said.

The agreement with MC Power does include a 95% production guarantee with a two-year lookback. If, after the first two years, production has not met 95% of the prediction, the city’s service charges will be decreased accordingly. Excess electricity will be returned to the grid (there will not be any resale by the city).

“I think this is a great project, I like that we are doing a partnership with a local business – I love that,” said Councilmember Phyllis Edson, adding that this is a forward-thinking move to be more environmentally conscious.

MC Power has been in business across the state of Missouri for ten years, with offices in Lee’s Summit, Independence, Sedalia and Fenton, Mich.

The city council voted to approve the agreement with only Binney voting against. Mayor Pro Tem Beto Lopez was absent from the meeting.