Solar company ready to sue city; council to hold closed meeting on threat tonight

This story originally appeared in this morning’s Daily Post.

Daily Post Staff Writer

The clean-energy company hired to install and operate solar panels and electric vehicle charging stations at four city parking garages has filed a $522,330.62 claim against the city of Palo Alto, saying the city’s negligence cost the company more than half a million dollars.

Palo Alto-based Komuna Energy filed the claim on July 13 and City Council will discuss the dispute in a closed-door meeting tonight.

In 2015, Komuna was hired to install and operate the solar panels and charging stations at the city garages at 445 Bryant St., 275 Cambridge Ave., 475 Cambridge Ave. and 520 Webster St. And in 2016, Komuna agreed to build a similar project at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto at 505 E. Charleston Road, with the city agreeing to buy all the energy generated by the project.

Delays blamed on city

Komuna claims that the city promised to expedite the permitting and approval process for the garage projects on Cambridge Avenue, but ended up taking more than 17 months, until July 2017, to award the permits.

That meant that Komuna wasn’t able to complete the work by the scheduled completion date of December 2017, because Komuna wasn’t able to receive permission to operate from the utilities department until March 19.

As a result, Komuna lost the opportunity to claim solar investment tax credits for 2017, costing Komuna a total of $126,084.

The city also required Komuna to get approval for the projects from the city’s Architectural Review Board despite its promise to speed up the approval process, so Komuna had to spend $23,558.75 on architectural drawings.

Aging equipment

According to Komuna, city officials failed to identify and disclose that its existing transformers and related infrastructure were so old that they needed to be replaced.

Once the projects were underway, the utilities department demanded upgrades to this equipment, which racked up another $214,367.57 in costs to Komuna for the two Cambridge Avenue garages.

In addition, Komuna alleges that the city placed an electrical vault in the wrong place at the Unitarian Universalist church, which cost about $105,475 to remedy.