County pushes solar decisions off again


MONTROSE – The Lee County Supervisors have pushed action on potentially adding solar panels to three buildings to next week’s meeting, but several officials are getting impatient with the continued discussion.

At Tuesday’s regular meeting, two electrical companies, Mohrfeld Electric of Fort Madison and Precision Energy Services out of Burlington were on hand to answer any additional questions supervisors may have had about the two firms’ proposals.

Mohrfeld originally pitched the idea to supervisors back in April. Mohrfeld has done similar projects in the county with Southeastern Community College’s Keokuk campus and Holy Trinity Catholic High School.

Under the proposal, Mohrfeld would essentially pay for the installation of the panels and hooking up the power and then the county would pay reduced electric rates per a purchase power agreement back to Mohrfeld’s. The proposal would also include some upgrades to lighting.

Precision, then came into the picture last week and made a pitch to the supervisors as well touting similar savings and union laborers.

Under the terms of the PPAs the majority of the county’s electric bill would be paid to Mohrfeld under a 15-year Power Purchase Agreement. Mohrfeld would also warranty the new equipment. Through Precision, the bills would be paid back to an investment group Econergy out of Washington D.C.

The proposal would put solar panels on top of Keokuk’s Department of Human Services building, the North Lee County Office Building and a battery of panels at the Lee County Conservation Building.

Mohrfeld’s plan would include a set at the LCCD that could rotate on a pedestal to capture more sun, Precision’s would be a fixed bank at that location.

“Ours would be a tracking system, that I’m not going to lie, is going to have curb appeal. It’s more efficient but it has slower return. It doesn’t perform like a fixed mount system does,” Mohrfeld said.

Precision’s Brian Fleming said the fixed mount would be cheaper just because it doesn’t have as many moving parts.

Supervisors Ron Fedler and Rick Larkin said the work should stay in the county because Mohrfeld has a proven track record and Mohrfeld brought the idea to the county.

“Mohrfeld took the initiative to come out here and took the initiative to make the original presentation and everything. And it was only after everyone else read it in the papers that they decided they wanted to put a bid in. At least that’s what I’ve been told,” Larkin said.

“The longer we let this go the more and more and more companies are gonna want to make presentations. I think it’s time we make a decision and I think we should put this on the agenda for next week.”

Precision’s proposal also included solar panels on the jail, but Mohrfeld said their math was wrong and the building’s rating couldn’t be dropped enough considering the amount of electricity being consumed. Precision said the system would have to include LED lighting which would reduce the demand to 20,000 units per month, but Mohrfeld said the math was not right and they had to stay below 20,000 units per month for 12 months of the year,

“There’s no way you’re going to cut this building usage in half,” Mohrfeld said. “There’s no way your going to make enough sun in December to pull this building out of demand. I’m sorry, but you’re math is way off.”

Lee County Attorney Ross Braden said because there is no out of pocket expense to the county, the project doesn’t fall under the county’s bid codes and the firm could be chosen by the board on the merits without bidding concerns.

In other action, the board:

• approved selling two parcels of land in Argyle to Alwater Farms for a combined $21,100.

• approved adding Ray Essex as a county medical investigator

• approved hiring two seasonal employees for the Lee County Conservation District.

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