EVANSVILLE — Officials in Boonville, Indiana, are hoping to keep future sewer rate increases down in a unique way.
The city is set to move ahead with building a four-acre solar farm to power its new sewage treatment plant.
A construction bid for the $1.7 million project was expected to be awarded at its Board of Public Works meeting late Thursday afternoon.
Mayor Charlie Wyatt said the solar farm is expected to save the city about $17,000 a month, or $6 million in the next 30 years. It will do so through a net metering agreement with Vectren, selling back excess power to the utility.
The solar farm will utilize more than 1,900 panels to generate that power and will be located immediately south of Boonville's sewer plant on Millersburg Road.
Wyatt said Boonville sewer bills last went up two years ago when the city increased the rate by $6. The combined sewer and water bill for city residents is currently $49.82. Sewer service accounts for $33.52 of that bill.
While the city may need to increase rates slightly every few years, the hope is the cost savings from the net metering solar agreement will stave off any significant increases for a long time, he said.
Funding for the solar project is already available, Wyatt said. It was included as part of the $8.7 million bond issued in 2016 to fund the sewer plant construction, as well as from cost savings accrued from that project.
"This has been 2-1/2 years worth of planning," Wyatt said.
The new sewer plant and solar field were included in Boonville's plan to serve a 1,165-acre area it annexed west of the city.
Vectren spokeswoman Natalie Hedde said the company currently has about 25 active net metering agreements with commercial solar installations of varying sizes. Among some of the more visible of these are solar installations at EVSC's Southern Indiana Career and Technical Center and Plaza Park schools, the Newburgh Chandler Public Library branch at Bell Road and Indiana American Water, also in Newburgh.