Lima Council takes first step in floating solar array project

LIMA — The city of Lima is on its way to becoming the home of the largest floating solar array in the state, thanks to legislation passed Monday by Lima City Council.

Council members unanimously passed an ordinance authorizing the mayor to enter into a $987,000 contract for engineering and design services with D3Energy LLC, a Florida-based company that has built floating solar panels on bodies of water at multiple locations in its home state, as well as one in New Zealand, according to the company website.

The idea behind a floating solar panel is that a body of water like a lake or reservoir can accommodate the large space needed for a solar array instead of taking up the same amount of space on land. A recently failed 300-megawatt solar farm project in Shawnee Township would have taken up about 1,400 acres of farmland. Instead, this array, expected to generate about two megawatts of power, will cover four acres on the surface of Twin Lakes Reservoir, located behind the Lima Water Treatment plant on Reservoir Road.

“We’re the second [array] in Ohio, but we’ll be the largest in Ohio,” Lima utilities director Mike Caprella said. “There’s not a lot of places to put solar on the ground. So we’re going with floating solar. This enables us to hire the contractor to design it and to put part of that unit in, with all the anchors that will hold it down.”

The city was able to begin exploring this option for solar energy after receiving a $500,000 grant that U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, helped secure, money that will go toward the design contract cost, according to Caprella. Speaking at a sustainability summit in April, Mayor Sharetta Smith mentioned how this project, which has a current final price estimate of $3.4 million, could help save the city up to $1 million per year in energy costs.

“The power will not go directly to the water treatment plant, but it will go back on the grid and we will get credit for it,” Caprella said.

Caprella also said that the array should not have any environmental impact on the reservoir itself.

“It’ll keep the sunlight out of the water underneath it so you won’t get algae growth, so that could be a benefit,” he said.

No timetable has yet been set for when this array would be constructed, but Caprella estimated it may be a year-and-a-half process.

Councilors also unanimously passed an ordinance to advertise for proposals and enter into a contract to conduct an endowment campaign for the new $10.3 million pool facility set to be built near Spartan Stadium. While the contract itself is expected to cost about $100,000, the goal is for the endowment campaign to raise an anticipated $3 million to $3.5 million to close funding gaps for operating costs. The project is currently facing a projected construction deficit of $1.5 million.