BAR HARBOR — A proposal from ReVision Energy to install solar panels on the Public Works office building to supply electricity for town use will come before the Town Council next week. The proposal differs from Community Solar Farm (CSF) projects discussed earlier this year in both its location and the use of the electricity. The power would be used by the Department of Public Works, not a group of households.
At town meeting last month, voters approved a warrant article allowing the Town Council to enter into long-term lease agreements for solar energy installations. The article, proposed by council Vice Chairman Gary Friedmann, extended the council’s maximum lease authority from 15 to 30 years.
“We’re going with this proposal first because it’s simpler in many ways than the salt shed CSF proposal,” Friedmann said. He was referring to a previously announced plan to install solar panels on the roof of the town’s salt storage shed. Nine local families would have been the beneficiaries.
“The idea of a solar project to serve town electric loads seemed to have a broad and deep consensus of support during the election,” ReVision’s Steve Hinchman wrote in a June 15 letter to councilors and Town Manager Cornell Knight.
The Public Works building has an east-west oriented, standing-seam roof. “ReVision would like to gain experience with an east-west oriented solar array, which is becoming increasingly viable,” Hinchman wrote.
Under the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) proposal coming before the council, ReVision would install and own the solar array on the Public Works office and sell electricity to the town at a negotiated rate.
In the first year of the agreement, that rate would be set equivalent to the rate the town currently pays to Emera. “Thereafter,” the proposal says, “the PPA price is designed to rise at a slower rate (4 percent) than historical trends for electricity rates in Maine’s commercial sector (4.5 percent), as determined by data from the Department of Energy.”
“The PPA is a complex document between the town, ReVision and Emera Maine,” Friedmann said. “We’ve been talking with their engineers about the specifics of the installation.” Emera would need to install a separate electrical meter at the Public Works facility.
The town would have the annual option to buy the system after a minimum of six years of operations.
“If the town bought the panels, it would be a 20-year payback,” Friedmann said. “If ReVision owns them, they can take advantage of depreciation against their tax liability, the secondary market of renewable energy credit to other states and federal tax credits. In seven years, those benefits to them would be fully realized, and the town could buy the $250,000 system for $84,000.”
ReVision hopes to build and commission the project this year, Hinchman wrote in his letter, “which will require that we negotiate a final PPA by August 15.”
Separately, Friedmann said, work on a CSF proposal with ReVision continues. “We’re doing engineering work on other sites, looking at all of the possibilities. We want to develop the site that makes the most sense.”