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CU partners to build solar energy farm

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City Utilities of Springfield expects to close today on a contract with Strata Solar, allowing the Chapel Hill, N.C., company to build a solar energy farm on CU-owned land northeast of Springfield.

Steve Stodden, CU associate general manager of electric supply, said the project would utilize approximately 40 acres owned by CU at 2915 N. Farm Road 209, near Interstate 44. The vacant, buffer land is located directly east of CU's McCartney generating station.

The 25-year contract calls for CU to lease the land to Strata at no cost, with a buyout option starting at year seven, Stodden said. The nearly 5-megawatt farm would produce approximately 9.6 million kilowatt-hours per year, equivalent to the electric power used annually by some 875 homes in the Springfield area. Stodden said CU would pay Strata a fee to use the generated power.

He declined to provide financial details, noting CU has agreed not to release them until the contract is officially signed.

If CU decides not to exercise the purchase clause for the equipment developed by Strata, the equipment would be recalled and the land would be returned to its current state, Stodden said. He added the equipment has a roughly 25-year life span, so either way, an evaluation would be required at the end of the contract.

"We've never been involved with any large solar projects, so part of this is going to be a learning process for us," Stodden said.

Strata, which Stodden said would likely hire local workers to build the project but hasn't yet selected a contractor, is expected to break ground in February and target completion in May. Stodden said Strata is partnering with O'Fallon-based Solexus Development to develop the solar farm.[[In-content Ad]]

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