I think we have been asking the wrong questions about the solar array on the Westside Service Center.
Mr. Putnam and the Texas Public Policy Foundation were chasing the cost and payback period for the solar panels atop the City’s Westside Service Center. I am more curious as to why the City went to such great lengths to hide this information. And hide it they did; in plain sight.
Most of the needed information as to project size and intent was provided on the cover-sheet for the July 8, 2016 GUS Board meeting, where the Westside solar project was first presented. More information was provided September 13, 2016 to the City Council when the project went to the council for authorization to proceed. The attachments to that agenda item were the two solar proposals GUS was considering and the final proposed contract for the solar panels and installation. The information provided through the Gus Board and Council agenda items, and about 5 minutes on Google (how to calculate solar panel output,) provides a fairly close calculation to cost and payback. Unfortunately, most citizens don’t even know that these records exist or how to find them.
So, in my opinion, here are the questions that need to be asked:
- Why did GUS go so far as to falsely claim that this was competitive information, when most of it was made available in public meetings and on the City website?
- The GUS Board cover-sheet states “GUS issued a Request for Proposals for the purpose of supplying the Westside Service Center with solar power on site instead of relying on grid tied power.” in June, 2016.
- Why didn’t GUS want grid tied power at the Westside Service Center?
- If the electricity goes off at the GMC, the primary facility housing GUS personnel, the generators kick in and work continues, as it does in all City building where “necessary public services” are provided.
- What is different in the Westside Service Center, as opposed to other City facilities?
- Could this be a pilot program for the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge?
- According to the Community Impact Newspaper in the Oct 31, 2018 issue, the initial project will place nearly 400 solar panels on 10-15 roofs in the City and plant eight to nine batteries that will store energy, in case of a power outage. Coincidentally, there are just over 400 (468 to be exact) solar panels mounted on the Westside building.
- Were the solar panels purchased or financed?
- Or more to the point, did we increase debt or add to our “cash poor” status. And now, it looks like the City Council is questioning the financial requirements that are attached to the $1,000,000 prize from the Bloomburg Philanthropy Mayor’s Challenge.
- How will returning the money given to the City, as one of the top nine finalists, affect our financial status?
- Once again, why is the City producing more electricity than is needed?
- According to radio talk show host Paul Flahive, the technology and entrepreneurship reporter for Texas Public Radio, in a program referencing City staff and highlighting Georgetown, there is enough additional kWh from the panels on the Service Center to sustain 15 houses. (Like from 468 Solar Panels?)
So many questions, so few answers. I guess my real question is, why all the secrecy? If all that the City is doing is on the up and up, why not just tell us? Let us be proud and support the City and its noble endeavors.