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City of Alachua approves solar power purchase agreement: Installation set for November

A new, low-cost, reliable and clean component of the City of Alachua’s energy portfolio will power 8% of local homes and businesses.

The City of Alachua and Alachua Solar Energy entered into an agreement last June with NovaSol. The first amendment to the agreement was approved by the city commission the next month.

During a commission meeting in February, the commission approved a second amendment to the solar power contract and executed the amended agreement.

“This is a big step in that direction of using multiple types of power sources to support our city for the future,” said Vice Mayor Dayne Miller at the meeting.

The amended contract aims to ensure the project’s success by providing the commencement of installation in November and amending the contract to an increased price as energy rates rise.

The city’s current energy peak load is 36 megawatts. The solar facility will add a new component and produce a 5 megawatts facility. The contract anticipates a long-term commitment to solar usage for the next 30 years.

Hailey Hurst/WUFT News, Florida Municipal Electric Association

Haseeb Qadri is the president and chief executive officer of Novasol, which is designing and building the solar power plant in the city’s distribution area. He said they are responsible for conducting an outside investment to construct the plant and save transmission costs for the city.

Qadri said more than 12,500 solar panels will be built on a site up to 40 acres using a single access tracking system. The system will cause panels to rotate east to west, following the sun, to give an additional 12% to 16% of electricity compared to stationary panels, he said.

“It allows the city to invest in clean renewable energy and decrease environmental impacts,” said the assistant manager for Alachua, Rodolfo Valladares. “At the same time, it will provide savings to the city's electric utility customers.”

The city’s current bulk power providers generate electricity using natural gas prices. Natural gas prices fluctuate with the market and are expected to increase over the next 30 years, he said.

Energy costs from the solar facility are flat fixed rates. Any electricity produced by the solar facility will reduce the demand charge that comes from natural gas.

“Under a fixed payment contract, for the next 30 years we ensure there is no risk of increase and help protect ratepayers from possible price spikes in the energy market,” Qadri said.

Valladares said solar power is also a stable alternative during extreme emergencies.

“If the power system goes down with full power providers and transmission services, we will still have that source of locally produced power to provide another benefit,” he said.

According to the Florida Municipal Electric Association, there are 33 public power utilities in Florida, serving 1.5 million homes and businesses. These communities believe that public power is the best choice for their communities and citizens.

The association released a monthly bill comparison for February 2022 to January 2023. The nationwide average monthly residential power bill is $133.21. The data shows the residential bills served by different utilities and cities, including the Alachua Electric. It said Alachua’s average was 8.3% below the average at $122.14 per month.

Although the agreement was approved in June, purchasing electricity is a long process involving several factors, and they are moving as fast as they can, Valladares said. The solar field location at 13700 NW 126th Terrace, Alachua, is currently undergoing site environmental review and completing site surveys before construction can begin.

Hailey is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing