Superior councilor wants answers before investing in solar garden

Councilor Jack Sweeney has been trying to get questions answered about a proposal to power several parks by investing in Superior Water, Light & Power's solar garden.

Superior Solar community solar garden rendering
Superior's finance committee will weigh the pros and cons of investing in Superior Water, Light and Power' first solar garden near Heritage Park.
Contributed / Superior Water, Light and Power
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SUPERIOR — For nearly a month and a half, Councilor Jack Sweeney has been trying to get questions answered around a proposal to power several parks with solar energy.

Among them: If the city is investing up to $65,000 to buy into Superior Water, Light and Power’s community solar garden, how is it the city would only save about $34,000 dollars?

Councilors debated the level of detail needed to approve a renewable energy project.

“It’s just not clear to me where we’re going to save any money,” Sweeney said Dec. 21, when the measure was introduced to the council without being vetted by any of its standing committees.

After twice pushing the issue back to the next council meeting in his quest for more information, Sweeney asked the council Tuesday, Feb. 1, to refer the matter to the finance committee for additional vetting.

“I refer it back with a commitment that after the finance committee meeting, the next city council meeting we will bring forth a recommendation,” Sweeney said.


The city’s finance committee will consider the proposal to invest in the solar garden when it meets at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 10, with a recommendation planned to go before the council at its Feb. 15 meeting.

“I am getting a little impatient to come to a decision, but I do support the recommendation to refer to committee,” Mayor Jim Paine said. “That should have gone to committee in the first place, I think. We probably could have saved some time.”

Paine said the city would be a significant investor in the solar garden if the council approves the measure.

The plan calls for city to subscribe to 20 blocks in the solar garden at an estimated cost of $48,816, capped at a maximum amount of $65,000, which would save the city about $3,322 annually based on current electric rates, according to documents submitted to the city council.

SWL&P will finalize subscription rates once bids to build the garden are received, wrote Linda Cadotte, parks, recreation and forestry director, in a memo to the council in December. She said the city could opt out if the rates exceed the city budget

Shelley Nelson is a reporter with the Duluth Media Group since 1997, and has covered Superior and Douglas County communities and government for the Duluth News Tribune from 1999 to 2006, and the Superior Telegram since 2006. Contact her at 715-395-5022 or
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