MOUNT DESERT — The new solar panels on the roof of the town’s highway garage on Sargeant Drive generated 516 kilowatts of electricity on Tuesday and, by 8 a.m. Wednesday, had pumped out 39 kilowatts.
The 255 solar panels, which were installed this past winter and early spring, began operating in early April.
The solar array is expected to generate about 71,300 kilowatt hours of electricity a year, offsetting about 130 percent of the annual electrical use at the highway garage.
The electricity that isn’t used at the garage will be credited to other town-owned facilities.
Voters at the 2017 town meeting authorized the town to sign a power purchase agreement (PPA) with ReVision Energy. Under that agreement, ReVision Energy purchased and installed the solar panels on the highway garage at no cost to the town. The town is paying ReVision monthly for the electricity it uses.
“Our initial projections show the town paying a competitive rate and staying revenue neutral in year one,” said Nick Sampson of ReVision Energy.
“And the town’s rate is fixed for the first six years of the PPA, which should lead to further savings, as Maine utility rates have risen by an average of 3 percent a year over the past 10 years.”
After six years, the town will have the option to continue buying power from ReVision or to buy the solar array and associated equipment at “fair market value.” That purchase cost was estimated last year at about $100,000.
“When solar was first suggested to me for a town facility, I was a skeptic,” said Public Works Director Tony Smith. “But the numbers don’t lie. This will save the town money in the years ahead. I’m hoping we can identify other sites we can consider for solar array installation.”
Members of the town’s Sustainability Committee worked with Smith to initiate and coordinate the solar project.