JDA approves solar rights agreement with area firm
by Jason Lowrey
Mar 19, 2014 | 1707 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Creative Solar USA, a Woodstock company specializing in renewable solar energy, has been granted exclusive rights to solar use on 5 to 7 acres of land in Bartow County. Under the agreement, the rights will last 12 months and allow the company to submit an application to the Georgia Power Advanced Solar Initiative.

If selected for the Georgia Power project, the investment would be worth approximately $2,150,000.

As approved by the Bartow-Cartersville Joint Development Authority during its Tuesday meeting, Creative Solar will have the exclusive solar rights to an as yet undetermined patch of land within a 45-acre tract near Toyo Tire. The land, owned by the JDA, will not be used by Toyo in a future expansion, said Cartersville-Bartow County Department of Economic Development Director Melinda Lemmon.

Although the JDA approved the option agreement, it does not contain binding terms for the lease. The document contained examples such as a 20-year term with two five-year options to extend the term. After some discussion among board members, the final decision was to revisit the five-year extensions under mutually agreeable terms.

Creative Solar representative Don Moreland said the GPASI acted as a lottery that would determine which applicants would receive the company’s support to build its solar array. There are approximately 34 megawatts Georgia Power has set aside for the 2014 projects, and there is “very, very high demand,” for the projects, he added.

“They are paying 13 cents a kilowatt hour for 20 years. It’s a 20-year power purchase agreement and Georgia Power’s been real careful. And they actually did a really good job pricing that because it’s enough for folks like us to make a solar project feasible, but it doesn’t put upward pressure on rates at the same time,” Moreland said during his presentation.

“.... Based on the amount of demand that they have for these projects, and the amounts of megawatts allocated, the winners are going to be chosen by lottery. So we’re going down this process — and I don’t want to get into too much detail — but the application fee is nonrefundable and it’s not a nominal application fee. It’s significant and there is a degree of risk associated with each project.”

Last year, Moreland explained, Georgia Power received 900 applications and chose about 50 projects. Creative Solar has submitted seven applications, but has not yet been selected. However, Moreland said, the Tennessee Valley Authority has selected some of the company’s projects. For 2014, he added, Georgia Power changed the lottery’s criteria to weed out straw applications. Requiring an approved option agreement was one such change.

If selected and constructed, the solar array will tie into Georgia Power’s lines on U.S. Highway 411 by following an easement on the edge of Toyo’s property. The application period opens March 24 and closes April 4.

Creative Solar’s decision to select the Bartow County site came after discussions with Lemmon and looking at various properties the JDA owns.

“[I] couldn’t be more excited,” Moreland said after the meeting. “I used to work in Cartersville. I’m from Georgia my whole life, and to see how much growth this particular joint development authority has experienced over the last few years — just to be a part of that, yeah, we’re very excited.”

Prior to approving its agreement with Creative Solar, the JDA board debated how to make the May 1 payment on the Highland 75 bonds. Lemmon and JDA member Sonny Miller recommended the second JDA, which owns the land, make the payment out of its Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds and the first JDA, which maintains the land on a day-to-day basis, make the appropriate changes to its accounts to reflect the payment’s effects.

Cartersville City Attorney David Archer disagreed with the method.

“I would frankly be more comfortable with the second JDA making the check payable to this JDA and this JDA making the payment,” he said. “... I mean, it’s a wash, but somehow I’m real keen on the separateness of these two bodies.”

Attorney Keith Lovell and Bartow County Administrator Peter Olson also weighed in on the topic, with both remarking on how the second JDA is paying for the first JDA’s debt.

“The second’s receiving the money to buy the assets, you know what I mean? That’s the SPLOST agreement, so they’re buying the assets from this JDA,” Olson said. “I think David makes a good suggestion. The SPLOST money is flowing to the second JDA. They’re buying the assets and this JDA is paying off the debt.”

The board approved making a request to the second JDA to send a check for the first bond payment and also approved reimbursing Cartersville and Bartow County for previous bond payments out of the first JDA’s accounts.

In other business the JDA:

• heard updates on its January and February finances.

• heard an update from Lemmon on Highland 75, including the need for a new sign to be replaced under warranty and possible landscaping improvements.

• discussed sending out request for proposals on common area maintenance, accounting and auditing.

• ended a Highland 75 marketing contract with TPA Group.

• heard a department update from Lemmon.

• was informed Toyo Tire won a 2014 Corporate Investment & Community Impact Award from “Trade Industry & Industry Development” magazine.

The JDA’s next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, April 15, at noon at the Clarence Brown Conference Center.