Tarpon green energy future taking small PACE

TARPON SPRINGS - It's going to be a while before green technology is supplying a large portion of the city's power demand, but a couple recent steps have been taken to start moving more in that direction.Public Services Director Paul Smith updated city commissioners late last month on three energy initiatives affecting Tarpon Springs.One of those is the Solar Demonstration Project staff was directed to construct more than a year ago.Almost 100 percent complete, the 20 240-watt polycrystalline panels are now in place atop the roof of the wastewater treatment plant's chlorine building. Construction and installation is finished and crews have been working on start up, Smith told commissioners last month.The $50,000 project will produce approximately 20 to 25 kilowatt-hours per day, Smith reported, noting that the average household uses 26 kWh over the same period.During the same presentation, Smith briefed commissioners on the feasibility of the city's possible involvement in the Property Assessed Clean Energy program.PACE provides loans to pay for improvements that increase residential or commercial energy or water efficiency or wind resistance measures, repaid as property tax assessments for up to 20 years. The program is designed to reduce or eliminate up-front cost barriers that hold residents and business owners from installing such equipment.Smith previously suggested that a city a PACE program operating on its own might not be economically viable. In response, the city opted to submit a letter of support for a countywide initiative to the Pinellas County Commission.County commissioners decided to approve PACE's implementation throughout Pinellas at their June 4 meeting by a 5-1 vote.One Pinellas County city, Gulfport, has already entered into a PACE program and is using a third-party administrator to run it. Like Gulfport, Smith recommended that Tarpon Springs venture into the program on a commercial-only basis to start.Tarpon Springs Commissioner Jeff Larsen has advocated for PACE in the past and said he was pleased to see its progress locally."I think it was a little over a year ago that I first placed PACE on our agenda," Larsen said. "I'm glad staff has stayed with it and I'm glad to see the county is looking to move in that direction."
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