The city of Ashland will seek new bids for a proposed community solar project that uses less stringent requirements.




In April, 15 people attended a pre-bid conference, but the city received only two bids in May. Neither bid met requirements that the electricity output of the project be guaranteed through a bond.




"One bidder told us they couldn't find a bond for solar system performance for 10 years," said Dick Wanderscheid, director of the Ashland Electric Department.




Earlier this week, the Ashland City Council voted unanimously to seek new bids.




Rather than a bond, the electric output would be guaranteed through a financial penalty if output drops below targets in future years, Wanderscheid said.




Bidders would still need a bond for the actual construction of the solar project on two city buildings, he said.




The city is also allowing a more flexible construction schedule. The city had previously asked that one solar system be built on a building at 90 N. Mountain Ave. by June 30. The second system was to be a built in conjunction with a city project to enclose a storage building at that site this summer or fall.




New project proposals and bids will be judged on a point system. Bidders can earn up to 45 points based on the system's cost, 15 points for the expected electricity generation and warranty, 15 points for bidder experience, 10 points for completeness of design, 10 points for the work schedule and five points for aesthetics.




Soliciting bids for the solar project does not commit the City Council to actually proceed with the project, Wanderscheid said.




Resident Art Bullock objected to the point system because he said it was not an objective-enough method for awarding a contract.




In 2006, the city of Ashland received permission from the Internal Revenue Service to sell up to $500,000 in interest-free Clean Renewable Energy Bonds to finance the solar system.




Under a preliminary plan, electric customers could voluntarily invest in the solar system and receive a credit on their electric bills for the energy their share of the system generates.




The Ashland Electric Department would have to pay for any financial shortfall if enough customers didn't join the effort.




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