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Auburn landfill solar

A conceptual design of a proposed solar array that could be constructed on City of Auburn-owned land.

It appears that Auburn has a good deal in place to lease closed landfill space to a company that wants to put solar panels there. In the absence of any apparent downside, we think it would be a smart move.

The proposal under consideration is to lease 36 acres of old landfill space on North Division Street to Abundant Solar, a company seeking suitable locations for solar arrays. The land is otherwise useless to the city because it isn't suitable for development. And Auburn's solid waste fund certainly needs every penny it can find as the city prepares to eventually shut down it landfill operations altogether.

The council was wise to steer clear of a deal involving contractual power purchases because variables such as rate fluctuations can lead to scenarios wherein a deal that looks good today comes back to bite you down the road. And a straight lease deal carries no risk for city taxpayers, some of whom may find it beneficial to purchase power from the company once the array is up and running.

The proposed agreement gives the city a $56,000 security deposit and the guarantee that the site will be properly decommissioned in the event that the company dissolves or otherwise ceases operations.

Abundant Solar would pay a nominal rent of $12,000 to start off, but if things go as well as the company believes they will, the lease payments would increase to $60,000 for the final part of the 15-year deal, and as much as $99,000 if the contract is extended beyond that point.

Unless there are concerns we haven't heard about, this appears to be a winning proposal for city taxpayers.

The Citizen editorial board includes publisher Michelle Bowers, executive editor Jeremy Boyer and managing editor Mike Dowd.

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