Solar project faces complications



TREMONT — The town’s solar task force is discussing three proposals it has received for building a solar array on the landfill site, but the process is taking longer than anticipated.

“It’s more complicated than we expected,” said Selectman Kevin Buck.

The task force is made up of five volunteers, including residents Elaine Eaton, Keri Hayes, Margery Buck, Kevin Buck and Joe Blotnick, task force chair and coordinator of A Climate to Thrive, a nonprofit advocate of energy independence for Mount Desert Island.

Details of the proposals can’t be released until the task force makes its recommendation to the Board of Selectmen, Kevin Buck said, because the companies have asked to treat it like a sealed bidding process.

They hope to make a decision “in the not-too-distant future,” he added.

Buck originally proposed the project to the Board of Selectmen shortly after he was elected about two years ago, after attending the first A Climate to Thrive conference.

The bidders hope the town is still on track to have the project completed by the summer.

The complications are mostly technical and regulatory in nature, Buck said. For example, the reimbursement rate for the school’s electricity bill is lower than the rest of the municipal meters, which makes the benefits of the solar array less attractive for the school.

The task force has been investigating the source of that difference, and Emera, the electric utility company, has sent some information, but Kevin Buck said they need more detailed data to understand what’s generating the higher usage charge.

The solar array would operate under what’s known as a “power purchase agreement.” It would be a private enterprise, but the town would have the option of purchasing it when the array depreciates down the line, said Buck.

“In the long-run, it will definitely save town money, no matter which way we go, and we’ll be producing clean energy that’s local, which is what we should focus on,” he added.

So far, the task force has met three times. The meetings are open to the town, and Kevin Buck encourages the public to participate.

 

Henriette Chacar

Henriette Chacar

Former Islander reporter Henriette Chacar covered the towns of Southwest Harbor and Tremont.
Henriette Chacar

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