April 19, 2021

County’s solar panel financier drops out

Supervisors and Simpleray go with a new financing option for project

Since Jasper County could not provide documentation extending roof warranties to 20 years, the original financier of its solar panel installation project has dropped out. However, a representative of Simpleray, a solar contractor, developed a new financing plan for the board of supervisors.

After the county attorney reviews the latest draft of the contract, up to five, county-owned buildings may be installed with solar panels in the near future.

If authorized, the roofs of the county engineering office, Koppin Building, Jasper County Community Center, Jasper County Armory Building and the new administration building to be located at the former NewCare would be equipped with photovoltaic energy systems, Newton News previously reported.

Even though documentation was not provided to Blue Flame Energy Finance, the original financing source, Jasper County Board of Supervisors Chair Brandon Talsma said the roofs are in good shape.

“Blue Flame really wanted to see that there was a 20-year warranty on roofs, and, you know, we couldn’t provide anything saying that,” Talsma said at the board meeting Tuesday morning. “I had a guy come out and look at all the roofs. All the roofs are in great shape.”

Josh Clark, a renewable energy consultant of Simpleray, looked at different financing options for the county. Since rates had recently dropped, “an option that wasn’t really viable in the past is now viable.” The county could now opt into a municipal lease with new financier CleanCapital.

This would not effect the county’s zero-down buy-in for a 20-year term with the solar panel system, Clark said. Instead, the county would have a monthly lease payment based on its creditworthiness, which currently rated at an investment grade. However, there is no tax equity portion attached to the project now.

“The rates that are available to you through this product are actually very, very low — this is 3.13 percent (interest rate),” Clark said. “So the positive cash flow in year one based on energy savings versus lease payments, it’s only about $300 higher than the Blue Flame, even with Blue Flame taking all that tax equity.”

Municipal lease rates, he added, are just like mortgages; the rate can fluctuate daily. The county is directly making the payments, but Clark said it would be with money saved from another area allowing for that payment without additional money. Jasper County is still looking at a positive cash flow, even in the first year.

“Because of the energy savings in comparison to the lease payments,” he said.

Clark provided the municipal lease application to supervisors, the auditor’s office and county attorney to review and fill out. He reminded the board, again, that the municipal lease rate could change by the time supervisors review this new option at a later meeting.

In other action Tuesday, the board of supervisors:

• Approved a budget amendment for fiscal year 2019-2020.

• Tabled Jasper County Engineer Russ Stutt’s request for salt bids and his subsequent update to the board since he was not able to attend the meeting.

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com