Town grants easement for solar farm operation

BAR HARBOR — A planned community solar farm (CSF) on town property at the Public Works complex off the Crooked Road cleared a bureaucratic hurdle Tuesday when the Town Council agreed to donate the private electrical service line and equipment at the facility to Emera Maine, allowing them to make a connection to the solar farm.

The six councilors present at the meeting unanimously agreed to sign the bill of sale transferring the 500 feet of service line and equipment to Emera. They also agreed to sign an easement granting Emera access to operate and maintain the line and to authorize Town Manager Cornell Knight to sign a contribution of facilities agreement with Emera.

“For Emera Maine to extend service to the proposed photovoltaic (PV) solar array off Public Works Way, we need to acquire ownership of 500 feet of the primary line,” an Emera representative wrote in an email to Knight. “Essentially, we are asking the town to contribute the line to us, pay the 19 percent tax effect of the depreciated value of the line, and we will own and maintain the line going forward.”

Investors in the CSF would make that $1, 213 payment of the tax effect to Emera, Knight said. It will not come out of the town’s general fund or public works budgets.

“I’m hoping this is the last thing the council has to do to make this happen,” Councilor Gary Friedmann said. “All of us working on this have been stunned by the hurdles and challenges the project has faced.”

He said “back-office” costs and administrative and legal work such as these transfers are a bigger factor than the photovoltaic panels themselves in the cost of solar power.

A warrant article allowing long-term leases of town property for CSFs passed at town meeting last June. The town attorney was comfortable that the council has the authority to grant the easement, Knight said, reaching that inference from the town meeting vote.

Maine solar company ReVision energy has been working on setting up the CSF, recruiting investors and offering financing.

The transfer of the service line to Emera, John Luft of ReVision said in a memo to the town, “is an essential part of getting construction to begin on this project and to allow for this project to go to closing.”

Local residents and businesses investing in the CSF are set form a mutual benefit nonprofit corporation that would own and manage the project.

“The CSF project allows shared ownership of a single solar array using virtual net metering,” according to materials, meaning electricity used by each member is measured against their share of output from the CSF. The association would be liable for annual inspection, maintenance, insurance and lease payment to the town of a few hundred dollars per share per year.

A share in the CSF is estimated to cost $23,157. The proposed configuration is based on a 5.5-kilowatt solar system generating 7,000 kilowatt hours per year. Luft estimated a $26,417 savings over 25 years for each investor with current projections of future energy costs.

Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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