TREMONT – The possibility of using the town’s former landfill for a solar energy installation was entertained by selectmen here Monday.
A Climate to Thrive (ACTT), an organization that has set the goal of making Mount Desert Island energy independent by 2030, had filed a request that the town allow a 414-kilowatt array of 1,300 photovoltaic panels to be installed atop the capped dump behind the municipal building.
CTT Coordinator Joe Blotnick told the board that the group already has contracts for more than 55 solar installations on MDI and has worked with the towns of Bar Harbor and Mount Desert on solar installations on existing public works buildings.
It also works to help establish community solar farms for people who have homes or businesses with sites that are ill-suited for solar panels.
“Capped landfills are great sites,” Blotnick said, adding that otherwise, land acquisition costs are too high. The array would be an inspiration to others, he added. “This could just be the tip of the iceberg.”
He explained there would be no upfront cost to the town. After seven years, the town would be able to exercise an option to purchase the array. Life expectancy for similar installations is at least 20 years, with many panels still generating power 30 and 40 years after being erected.
The best part, he continued, is that panels produce the most power in summer, when demand is highest. The panels would produce more power than is used annually by the town office, school and community building in Tremont.
In addition to numerous installations already in play on MDI, ACTT also has been approach by utility company Emera about helping find a site on the island for a one megawatt solar panel array to help serve as a backup should cables to the mainland fail or be damaged.
Resident Rick Smith told the board that using a former environmental hazard to produce “green” power was the right thing to do. “I remember when that landfill was an open burning pit,” he said. “We used to go there to shoot rats. Everybody did,” he continued. “It’s a whole new world now.”
“This is an amazing opportunity,” said Keri Hayes.
Art Paine told the board that Tremont should take the lead on solar energy on MDI. “From a public relations standpoint, the backside needs to become the frontside,” he said.
One resident noted there was a poplar recreational trail on the landfill parcel and that any array would have to be sited so as to not restrict access to that.
Selectman Jamie Thurlow moved to have Town Manager Dana Reed work with ACTT to explore creating the solar installation.