Chambersburg Borough enters partnership to build solar energy facility

Carlisle/West Shore

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Chambersburg Town Council voted to approve a public-private partnership with Sun Tribe of Charlottesville for a new solar system that will provide enough energy to power approximately 2,450 homes each year.

Sun Tribe of Charlottesville, Virginia is one of the most experienced public sector solar providers in the Mid-Atlantic United States.

Under the approved proposal, the Borough of Chambersburg will enter into a 20-year power purchase agreement with Sun Tribe Development – Sun Tribe’s provider of large-scale renewable energy solutions.

The 19.5 MWdc facility is located on Elk Ridge, a section of undeveloped land just outside the Borough of Chambersburg in Hamilton Township, will require no investment of funds for the equipment, from the Borough, while allowing it to see significant financial savings through lower energy costs.

The project is planned to be completed in Summer 2021.

As Pennsylvania’s largest public power system, this facility represents a significant commitment to solar power, which will help fuel the economic recovery of Chambersburg for decades to come.

The Borough of Chambersburg released the following statement:

“The Borough Electric Department has been seeking an opportunity to add solar energy to their power portfolio for years,” said Council President Alice Elia. “The goal was to find a site geographically near the Borough where a system can be constructed and connected directly into the Borough power grid, bypassing the need for wholesale power purchases from what can be a volatile marketplace. We wanted a renewable energy source that exemplified our commitment to environmental stewardship, but also made economic sense for the ratepayers of Chambersburg.”

“While wholesale power rates are at historic lows given the current state of the economy, this deal will allow us to control Chambersburg’s energy future for decades,” said Borough Manager Jeffrey Stonehill. “Chambersburg typically makes spring and fall decisions on purchasing tranches of power. While we remain concerned about the overall economy, this development project is a wise decision. Managing the power supply and its impact on the Borough economy is one of the most important activities of Town Council.”

Thanks to this power purchase agreement with Sun Tribe Development, the Borough of Chambersburg is continuing to make strategic investments in wholesale power supply, which will help guide the local economy back to prosperity. Smart investment in power will lead to lower operating costs for businesses and major employers, and control household
expenses, assuming that the economy needs to rebound over the next few months and years.

“In a time when tough budget choices are required, public sector leaders are embracing solar power as a source of cost savings and long-term budget control,” said Danny Van Clief, CEO of Sun Tribe Development. “We’re excited to work closely with the Borough to get this system up and running so that Chambersburg can be powered by affordable, renewable energy as it continues to grow and attract new residents and businesses.”

Solicitor G. Bryan Salzmann wanted to thank the entire “power team” that worked on these plans for months. “Specifically,” Mr. Salzmann added, “I wanted to thank Electric Department Superintendent Ronald Pezon, Assistant Superintendent Jeff Heverley, our legal team at McCarter and English in Washington, D.C., and our consulting team at GDS Associates of Marietta, Georgia, led by Garrett Cole. The Borough team managed to craft a beneficial project for the Borough, while dealing with the impact of the current health crisis.”

“The Borough conducted a Request for Proposals from solar development companies,” said Electric Superintendent Ron Pezon. “We had interest from over a dozen. We interviewed three. We determined that Sun Tribe provided the best potential value for Chambersburg’s ratepayers as experienced providers with a comprehensive team located just down I81, and we felt that they were the best fit for Chambersburg. We are very excited to undertake this project.”

Jeffrey Stonehill added, “This project will be groundbreaking. It will commit the Borough to renewable energy for decades. It is a significant project filling Elk Ridge, in Hamilton Township, with solar panels hooked directly to the Borough substation on Commerce Street. In terms of cost of power and offset for not needing to buy the power through the PJM interconnection, it is a win-win.” He went on to explain, “Just like the previous landfill gas to energy project that the Borough developed at the Blue Ridge Landfill, this project is considered ‘behind the meter’, not originating from the grid, and is for the benefit of Chambersburg homes and businesses.”

Late in 2019, Town Council approved multi-decade leases for the land on Elk Ridge from the two private property owners. If all goes as planned, the development project will break ground in late 2020, and the project will begin to produce electricity in 2021.

On a final note, Alice Elia pointed out, “Working together we can provide both economic and environmental benefits that will lead Chambersburg back after this crisis. We truly thank the state for their support of this project.” Financial assistance for this project was provided by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Honorable Tom Wolf, Governor through
the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program.

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