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Martinsville signs off on becoming involved in new-age utility projects

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GDS Associates engineer and consultant Garrett Cole.

The city of Martinsville moved a step closer Tuesday night to becoming involved in two state-of-the-art utility projects that would reduce the cost of electricity to residents.

“We remain enthusiastic about the projects,” GDS Associates Engineer and Consultant Garrett Cole told City Council. “The prices have been nailed down better than expected.”

Martinsville would sell the former Lynwood Golf Club site on the DuPont Road to Sol Systems, a solar energy investor and developer with headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Sol Systems plans to partner with Sun Tribe Solar out of Charlottesville and convert the property into a solar energy site producing 23 megawatt hours of electricity. A contract negotiated by GDS Associates on behalf of Martinsville entitles the city to almost one-third of the production — or eight megawatt hours — for a flat rate over a 25-year period.

Martinsville currently purchases wholesale power from American Municipal Power to meet a peak demand of 42 megawatt hours, so the impact could be substantial.

“We feel comfortable about being ready in the second quarter of 2022,” Cole said. “The project uses bifacial, single-axis panels that will follow the sun [for greater efficiency].”

The savings to the city is not so much in the cost of the electricity, but in transporting it. The costs of 98% of Martinsville’s current consumption include moving produced electricity along transmission lines across great distances, and those costs are projected to increase at a greater rate than the cost of the electricity itself.

Electricity produced locally eliminates most of the transportation costs and is referred to as being “behind the meter.”

The city has budgeted for the construction of a $350,000 transmission line that would allow electricity to be moved from the Lynwood site to the electrical grid serving Martinsville.

Also approved is a project Cole described as a “shared savings agreement” between the city and Appalachian Power.

At no cost to the city, a 9-megawatt battery storage facility will be constructed at a site on Maple Street.

AEP will construct, own and operate that $8.35 million facility at its expense, and for the use of the property Martinsville will receive 10% of the savings until the cost of the capital and investment have been recovered.

Then the split will be 50/50.

The contract period will begin on June 1 and last for 10 years.

“Revenue [to the city] is estimated to be $200,000 for a number of those years,” Cole said. “The benefit over the life of the project should be $3.6 million.

“It’s a lower-risk-way to get into the foray of utility storage.”

Also at the meeting, City Council:

  • Discussed legal matters related to reversion with City Attorney Eric Monday and took no action in the public session.
  • Approved on first reading an ordinance authorizing the issuance of up to $2.5 million in principle amount of water and sewer revenue bonds related to financing the reservoir spillway repair project. “We’ve been approved for the loan,” City Manager Leon Towarnicki said. “We’re ready to move ahead with it.”
  • Adopted on second reading an ordinance that prohibits refuse being placed on the curb in the Uptown Martinsville Historical District before 5 a.m. or after 9:30 a.m. on any day when refuse is collected, between the hours of 9:30 a.m. of any Friday and 5 a.m. of any Monday or during any holiday when there is no refuse collection. Violation of the ordinance will be a Class 1 misdemeanor.
  • Approved $371,079 reimbursement of highway funds for repairs being made to a bridge on Commonwealth Boulevard between Lester Street and Northside Drive.
  • Approved $54,818 requested by the Martinsville City School system from the school’s capital improvement budget to repair and upgrade the cooling system at Martinsville Middle School.

Bill Wyatt is a reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. He can be reached at 276-638-8801, Ext. 236. Follow him @billdwyatt

Bill Wyatt is a reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. He can be reached at 276-638-8801, Ext. 236. Follow him @billdwyatt


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