MOUNT DESERT — If voters at town meeting approve, the town will sign an agreement with ReVision Energy to install solar panels on the roof of the highway garage on Sargeant Drive.
The town would pay nothing for the solar array for six years but would agree to buy the power generated by the solar panels at a price comparable to local market rates. Then, at the end of six years, the town would have the option of buying the solar array at “fair market value,” which currently is estimated at $99,559, or continuing to buy power from ReVision.
Public Works Director Tony Smith, who has been working with ReVision and the town’s Sustainability Committee, said ReVision’s estimated upfront cost for materials and installation is $195,000.
It is anticipated that the highway garage would consume most of the estimated 67,000 kilowatt hours of electricity that the solar panels would generate each year. Any extra power could be used at any other town-owned facility that has the same type of electric meter as the highway garage.
Smith said in a March 3 memo to Town Manager Durlin Lunt that the town likely would be much better off financially if, after six years, it buys the solar array from ReVision.
He said that under current Maine Public Utilities Commission rules, the town would save about $146,000 by continuing to buy the solar-generated power from ReVision as compared to the cost of buying it from Emera Maine. But the savings would be as much as $451,000 “if we purchase the array and provide ourselves with power,” Smith said.
Under proposed new PUC rules, the town would save only about $149,000 by purchasing the solar array. But continuing to buy power from ReVision would cost the town an estimated $157,000.
Smith said that having ReVision buy and install the solar panels this year would be much more cost effective than the town doing it on its own.
“We could buy the panels for around $110,000,” he said. “But then we would have to find an installer and a third-party inspector, negotiate with Emera and trouble-shoot it.”
And Selectman Gordon Beck said that if ReVision buys the solar panels, it will be eligible for a 30 federal tax credit.
“They take the tax credit, and that flows back to us as a lower rate and a lower purchase price in year seven,” he said. “And we will own all of the power that’s generated thereafter. No matter how you look at it, it’s a really good deal.”