The Frankfort Plant Board recently paid an outside consultant $22,500 to evaluate a proposal for the City of Frankfort, the Franklin County Fiscal Court, Frankfort Independent Schools and Franklin County Schools to buy their electricity from a 20 megawatt (MW) 150-acre solar farm.
Now Baldwin and McDonald have penned a response saying that "nothing in the B&M report refutes our analysis of the benefits a local solar project would provide to our community.”
“No evidence or data analysis was offered to contradict our findings, that a 20 MW solar project would save local governments and schools about $1.2 million per year, while causing FPB revenue to decline by about $800,000 per year,” McDonald and Baldwin wrote in a response sent to The State Journal on Monday.
A spokesperson for Burns & McDonnell did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Baldwin's and McDonald’s response.
An FPB spokesperson also did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
The Burns & McDonnell report, presented by project manager Craig Brown, was critical of the solar proposal’s effect on utility rates, its legality, costs and logistical concerns.
The report also stated that rates would likely increase for residents and businesses as a result of the solar proposal's implementation, but the pair strongly pushed back on that assertion.
McDonald and Baldwin emphasized that the $800,000 loss in revenue for FPB could be offset by greater savings projected by the schools and local governments; per their calculations, the FPB could run at no loss while the schools and governments would still save $400,000.
The pair also wrote that Burns & McDonnell’s report focused more of its evidence-based material on the utility’s rate structure rather than the primary topic at hand: the solar proposal.
They also wrote that the report sidesteps President Joe Biden’s aggressive plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 — and the financial benefits such policies could entail for a project such as theirs.
One concern echoed by most FPB directors, including Kathryn Dutton-Mitchell, who otherwise spoke highly of McDonald and Baldwin’s work, is the potential for litigation.
McDonald and Baldwin complained that the consultant’s claim that the project was "likely illegal" was based on conjecture.
“The B&M engineer, after conceding he was not an attorney and was not familiar with Kentucky law, declared that the project was ‘likely illegal,’” they wrote. “However, he cited no supporting statute to justify the legal finding. The need for legal review is to be expected in any multi-million dollar project and the Board is wise to consider legal questions. However, we believe the project is consistent with Kentucky statute, and it is precisely the freedom provided to municipal utilities by statute that makes this project an important opportunity for Frankfort.”
McDonald and Baldwin said they are preparing a more detailed response for later release.