Trenton solar deal has fallen apart 

TRENTON — The deal to add solar panels to the roof of the town office is off, Board of Selectmen Chairman Fred Ehrlenbach announced at the board’s June 29 meeting. 

The decision comes after most of the board voted at its last meeting to sign the agreement with Sundog Solar. Ehrlenbach reported that the reason for the reversal was that the Trenton Elementary School could not be a recipient of the power generated at the town office because the school uses a demand meter instead of one of the four energy meters overseen by the town. 

Town Clerk Carol Walsh calculated that the town uses about 28,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy per year, just over half of the 43,000 kWh the solar array installed by Sundog would produce. The initial plan proposed by Sundog would have generated 61,000 kWh. 

The agreement could not be adjusted to accommodate the town’s energy usage. 

“Sundog can’t do anything that small,” Ehrlenbach said, adding that the project would be too small for Sundog to see a return on its investment.  

The board briefly discussed other options, such as buying solar panels outright or buying into nearby solar farms.  

“Back to the drawing board,” said Selectman Dan Monahan. 

In January, the town’s Planning Board approved The Trenton Solar Project, a large-scale solar farm proposed by Renewable Energy Development Partners, LLC. 

The $8.6 million project, slated for an undeveloped 98-acre wooded parcel on the Bar Harbor Road, will include 17,785 panels, a solar array size of 25 acres and will generate 7 megawatts of energy. 

Earlier this month, the Planning Board approved a residential solar project.  

“It’s just so disappointing,” said Trenton resident Sue Starr of the collapse of the town’s solar agreement. She asked if the elementary school had been asked to switch its energy meter so that it would be overseen by the town.  

Selectman Rachel Nobel noted that there are reasons why schools use demand meters, which measure the average energy usage for a given time, and that those reasons would be worth hearing from School Committee members.  

School officials had considered adding solar panels to the school roof and requested funding to fix the roof at Town Meeting on June 12 before installing panels. Voters denied that request, stating the school should get a bid to replace its roof with a metal roof that will likely cost more, but last longer compared to an asphalt roof.  

The sole agenda item for the School Committee’s July 1 meeting reads “approval of roof bid.”  

In other business, the board discussed coordinating mitigation strategies to deal with cases of the browntail moth caterpillar, an invasive species spreading across the state, after hearing from public health advocate Carolyn Wakefield.  

Rebecca Alley

Rebecca Alley

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
Rebecca is the Schoodic-area reporter and covers the towns of Eastbrook, Franklin, Hancock, Lamoine, Sorrento, Sullivan, Waltham, Winter Harbor and Trenton. She lives in Ellsworth with her husband and baby boy who was joyously welcomed in June 2020. Feel free to send tips and story ideas to [email protected]

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