Tucson solar project not a good deal for taxpayers

Two years ago the City of Tucson began installing solar systems on City properties. Now those installations are ready to produce electricity. The City touted the project as saving money in electricity costs and generating revenue. On its face that would seem to be a good deal, but the details leave questions.

The project was financed by selling $11.2 million worth of “Clean Renewable Energy Bonds.” According to City Energy Manager Douglas Crockett, these bonds carry an annual interest rate of 1.97%. That means taxpayers will have to pay $220,640 in interest each year for a total of $5,516,000 in interest over the 25-year project life. Since those bonds will eventually have to be paid back, total cost the taxpayers (or ratepayers) is therefore $16,716,000.

The City estimates electricity cost savings of $3.9 million over the life of the project. They also claim the project will produce $6.2 million in revenue over the next 25 years. Savings plus revenue to the City total $10.1 million, but the taxpayer cost is $16,710,000 (interest plus principal). It appears that taxpayers would have been better off had the project not been built. If my perception of this project is in error, I would like a detailed explanation by the City explaining why the project is good for taxpayers.

This project seems to me to be another simple-minded, politically correct ploy to appear “sustainable” much like the $196 million the City is spending to build their 3.9-mile long, 19th century concept, “modern street car.”

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4 comments

  1. Hey Jonathon: when it comes to Tucson publically funded projects, since when did the question “is it good for the taxpayers” become relevant?

    The “taxpayers” generally, are the least  important part of the Council’s consideration. Far, far more important are the business interests, and their profits, which are served by the project pushed through by the Council.

    For the past hundred years the sole purpose of the Tucson City Council has been to generate taxpayer funded projects for the local business community. (aka “the good old boys”) Now you can begin to understand Rio Nuevo, “The Streetcar Named Desire” and publically funded solar power.

    What’s good for the bottom line of the “good old boys” behind the scenes is good for the fund raising efforts of local politicians, the public interest be damned. 

    Money makes the world go round…

    Savvy?

  2. Two things:

    1) Solar, once built, will provide electricity long into the future for close to free.

    2) Coal and Gas may rise in price, but these solar panels will keep producing as long as the sun shines.

  3. Hay D.A. Maybe you and I DO agree on some things, solar power being the future. However, the question is: how much did the City Council overpay for the solar components, and the installation?

    You might find this astonishing, but I am partnered with Mexican economic interests who are begining to produce, in Mexico, “the latest generation” of solar components, including solar panels, at SUBSTANTIALLY lower costs.

    I will be representing their business interests here in Arizona.

    Solar power is GREAT! But don’t overpay and fill the pockets of the “fat cat good old boys” who lurk behind the scenes.

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