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ALACHUA – Monday night, the city commission unanimously passed at the second and final public hearing, an ordinance that provides the terms and the process for individuals or businesses to produce and sell energy back to the City.  The ordinance, which includes written policy, application fees and insurance requirements, provides for interconnection and net metering of customer-owner regeneration systems to the City’s electric system.

Kevin Stratten, representing NanoSonic Products, thanked the commission for approving the measure. NanoSonic Products, located across the street from the Progress Corporate Park in Alachua, recently had a 34 kilowatt solar panel system installed on the roof.  The company expects to generate enough electricity to cover its own energy usage with some excess to spare, which will be returned to the grid and purchased back by the City of Alachua.

Referring to the company’s owner, Mayor Gib Coerper said, “I know Dr. Tate is happy with this.”

Others in the audience were not so happy.

“Sometimes the devil's in the details,” said Michael Canney. He was concerned about the cap on how much solar power could be produced while being connected to the grid.

There shouldn't be “artificial barriers” on how much power can come from solar, he said. He hopes this ordinance does not restrict people from going to solar power.

City of Alachua public service director Mike New addressed the expenses of buying solar panels and the long-term payoff. He recommended putting the cost into the mortgage. By law, customers can't oversize panels for their homes, most likely resulting in having zero electricity charges beside the minimum utility customer charge, rather than making money.

Canney also brought up the issue of businesses taking up over half the quota of solar power contributions to the grid.

Vice-mayor Ben Boukari said, “I look at that cap as a checkpoint to look at where we are.” He added that at some point, a time will come when the City may have to charge people for the interconnection.

New said a cap of 2.5 percent of customers that can connect to the City's electric system with their own power “won't be an unfair burden on anyone,” where non-solar panel users are paying for the entire system. He said it would be a disincentive if solar panel users are charged.

Audience member Robert Perez suggested that the city could get off the necessity of depending on big power companies with the possibility of a solar powered, cooperative electric company.

Commissioner Robert Wilford said the ordinance could be used as a starting point, because of changes and “surprises coming up.”

Commissioner Gary Hardacre said the City is far away from not having to use the present power grid, adding “I think this is a good first step for us.”