Niles City Council approves system impact study for solar, battery energy storage

NILES – The Niles City Council meeting Monday evening was business as usual as members approved a Letter of Credit with United Federal Credit Union for wetland mitigation in regards to the Pucker Street Dam project and a System Impact Study for solar and battery energy storage in Niles were also approved without discussion.

Members also approved repair costs for a heating boiler at the Niles Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The city council also approved City Administrator Ric Huff and Utilities Manager Jeff Dunlap to engage Commonwealth Associates, Inc., of Jackson, Michigan, in a system impact study on a battery energy storage system and solar installation. The installation would connect to the Eastside substation.

Engaging Commonwealth Associates, Inc. to perform the system impact study will cost $24,000. This study is part of a larger concept city staff have been working on with “relevant stakeholders,” exploring a distribution scale solar photovoltaic system on the former National Standard site.

Among actions approved at the meeting was a resolution to continue a $471,200 Letter of Credit with the United Federal Credit Union for the Pucker Street Dam project.

In the report prepared Dunlap, he recommended the Letter of Credit be extended for up to one-year.

“The city’s Environment, Great Lakes and Energy permit for the Pucker Street Dam Removal and Dowagiac River Restoration required a letter of credit to be obtained by the city to offset potential wetlands impact during the project,” Dunlap said. “The city purchased adjoining uplands with the intention of changing spoils placement from impacted wetlands to the uplands, and once approved by the regulators the letter of credit will be released.”

The invested funds will be held by UFCU.

Dunlap also prepared a report requesting approval of the council for the emergency purchase of a Wastewater Treatment Plant boiler from Hickock Plumbing and Heating of Buchanan. The estimated cost is $50,000. The Wastewater Treatment Plant budgeted $50,000 for plant equipment maintenance in fiscal year 2021.

According to the report by Dunlap, the boiler was originally installed in the 1970s, and age became a factor in its ability to be fixed.

“This two million BTU/hour boiler supplies heat to the back and middle portions of the plant, along with the tunnels and all equipment contained therein,” Dunlap said.

The replacement was expedited and temporary heating units were placed on Jan. 19.

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