By Karen Brainard
The solar project for the San Vicente Wastewater Reclamation Plant continues to create dilemmas for Ramona Municipal Water District directors even though they voted to terminate the solar project in June.
At their Aug. 14 meeting, the directors were asked to consider a $3,000 payment to the county in an effort to possibly save the solar project and the state rebate that would go toward its construction.
The project was halted after it was discovered that a county lien against the San Vicente property prevented the solar company from obtaining financing. The county would not release the lien but suggested alternative security, such as a bond. With the lien, placed in 2000, securing about $800,000 in drainage and road improvements, RMWD has determined that a bond would require a minimum payment of $8,000 per year until the improvements were completed.
The $3,000 request on Tuesday was a deposit so county staff could update the estimates for road improvements and then determine the bond amount needed. RMWD General Manager David Barnum said the request came from Siliken, the contracted solar company, so it could finance and construct the solar.
Director Darrell Beck noted that the $3,000 is just a deposit to the county and that the costs could amount to more.
“I have no idea what we’re getting into. I mean we’ve already gotten into this thing deeper than we wanted to,” said Beck.
“I don’t want spend the $3,000 on a study. I don’t want to spend $8,000 on a bond,” said Director Joe Zenovic.
Even if the district obtained a bond and the solar project could proceed, a representative from Siliken said in June that the project could not meet the Oct. 1 completion deadline set by the California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE). Meeting that deadline would ensure that the district received nearly $330,000 in rebates for the construction of the solar and a $10,000 refund for its rebate reservation fee.
The Oct. 1 deadline was the second extension CCSE granted the district.
Although CCSE has reportedly never given a third extension, RMWD Legal Counsel Brooke Miller said Siliken has been in contact with the CCSE board and it will consider extending the deadline.
Board President Bryan Wadlington summarized their dilemma: “So we’re being asked to fund an additional $3,000, plus the cost of the bond...with the potential of the state renewing the application for a third time, which is unprecedented in the history of that entity.”
Noting there are a lot of unknowns, on top of what the district was being asked to pay, Wadlington said, “Boy, I’m not comfortable with this at all.”
Wadlington said this is a project “that never has any good news. Maybe it’s a loser and we need to cut our losses.”
The board voted 4-0 to deny the $3,000 payment to the county. Director Kit Kesinger was absent.
RMWD’s solar project at the Santa Maria Wastewater Reclamation Plant is proceeding to meet the Oct. 1 CCSE completion deadline. The water district is then scheduled to be refunded the $15,000 rebate reservation fee that it paid for the Santa Maria project.