LEXINGTON, Neb. - The Lexington City Council dealt with a range of projects Tuesday at their regular meeting, perhaps chief among them a partnership in what Mayor John Fagot called the biggest solar energy project in the state of Nebraska.
The council voted unanimously to enter into a power purchase agreement with Sol Systems, a solar energy company. Sol will build a five-megawatt capacity solar panel array on city-owned land north of the Greater Lexington addition. Fagot noted that the city isn’t purchasing and won’t maintain any of the equipment, and will retain ownership of the land.
The city agreed to purchase all the power the array will generate at the rate of $0.065 per kilowatt hour.
City Manager Joe Pepplitsch said the rate is higher than what the city currently pays for power, but the price is locked in for 25 years.
“We know that energy prices will go up in the coming years from Nebraska Public Power District,” he said. “Once we get past year five, we will start to see some large benefits to the community.”
He noted however that even running at full capacity the solar array will only generate a small fraction of the energy the city uses.
“This starts to get us in the realm of renewable energy,” he said.
Pepplitsch said the project will be up and running by May 2017, though he said it could come together more quickly than that.
In other business:
• The council held a public hearing on a proposed Viaero Wireless cell phone tower to the north and west of Sandoz Elementary.
A representative from Viaero said the tower will be approximately 50 feet tall and its purpose is to fill in some gaps in service for Viaero customers in Lexington. “It will have a small footprint but will provide a solution to get service in buildings,” he said.
The tower will have a six-foot fence around it.
The council voted to authorize the creation of conditional use permits documents and will consider the matter again at their next meeting.
• The council voted to award a $460,000 contract to GEA Mechanical for a de-watering centrifuge at the Waste Water Treatment Plant. Pepplitsch said GEA will now bring their technology in to see if can handle the sludge on-site “within reasonable parameters.”
“The best case scenario is, one year from now we’ll be putting this to use. It is badly needed,” Pepplitsch said. “Handling sludge the way we are now is problematic over the long term.”
Fagot said the centrifuge removes the water from waste so it can be caked, and dealt with more easily.
“We can’t handle it the way we are now and continue to grow,” Fagot said.
• The council approved plans for incubator space at the Dawson County Opportunity Center, and authorized the solicitations of bids for the project. The renovation will convert 3,500 square feet of unused space at the center into office space for fledgling businesses.
The project is expected to cost $200,000, with a USDA grant covering half the cost.
Pepplitsch said the goal is to have the incubator space operational by spring 2017.
Once this project is completed, there will be 8,000 square feet of unused space at the Opportunity Center. Pepplitsch said this is an important step toward utilizing the entire building.