Tony Smith, public works director in Mount Desert. Smith, along with Gordon Beck, will negotiate a power purchase agreement with ReVision Energy for solar panels to be constructed on the town garage. ISLANDER FILE PHOTO

Solar panels eyed for town garage

MOUNT DESERT — Town officials are negotiating with ReVision Energy for installation of solar panels on the roof of the town garage on Sargeant Drive to generate electricity for the garage and possibly other town facilities.

The Board of Selectmen last week authorized Public Works Director Tony Smith, along with Gordon Beck of the Sustainability Committee, to proceed with negotiations toward a final “power purchase agreement” (PPA).

The preliminary agreement, proposed by ReVision, calls for the company to buy and install all of the solar equipment. ReVision would bear the entire estimated cost of about $195,000.

Then, the town would pay ReVision for the electricity generated by the solar panels. At the end of the sixth year, when ReVision calculates it would have recouped its investment, the town would have the option of purchasing the solar equipment for not more than $109,000.

Selectman Brian Reilly said he assumed that would be more cost effective than the town buying the solar panels directly.

“Very much so,” Smith said. “We could buy the panels for around $110,000. But then we would have to find an installer, a third-party inspector to make sure they do it right, negotiate with [power company] Emera and trouble-shoot it.”

Beck said that if the town bought the solar panels, it would not be eligible for the 30 percent federal tax credit.

“By doing a power purchase agreement, our costs come down because ReVision is buying, installing and owning the equipment,” he said. “They take the tax credit, and that flows back to us as a lower [electricity] rate and a lower purchase price in year seven. 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,” Beck said.

It is estimated the solar array would generate about 67,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year, which is somewhat more than the highway garage has been using. Beck said that any other town building could use the excess electricity, provided it is equipped with the proper electric meter.

“If we don’t use all the electricity generated, Emera gets to keep it and we don’t get anything for it,” Beck said at last week’s Sustainability Committee meeting.

Smith said the proposed PPA with ReVision is “almost identical” to the one Bar Harbor signed with the company last year for installation of solar panels on its public works building. He said the ReVision proposal for Mount Desert has been reviewed by an independent expert in the field, who found it to be “very reasonable.”

However, Smith said, if negotiations with ReVision fall through for any reason, the town will solicit proposals from other solar vendors.

Barring that, he said that he and Beck plan to negotiate a final version of the PPA with ReVision and recommend that the full Sustainability Committee endorse it. It would then have to be approved by the Board of Selectmen and by voters at town meeting in May.

ReVision, based in Liberty, is a renewable energy contracting company that has installed more than 5,000 solar energy systems in Maine and New Hampshire since 2003.

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]
Dick Broom

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