TREMONT — A contract with a Searsport company to install a ground-mounted solar array on the closed town landfill was unanimously approved by voters at a special town meeting Monday.
After electing Frank Gray to moderate the meeting, all three articles before the voters passed unanimously without discussion. In less than ten minutes, voters approved a solar array, an amendment to the cemetery ordinance and authorizing selectmen or the town manager to accept and expend funds from grants, donations and other revenues.
About 25 residents attended the meeting that took place in the Harvey Kelley meeting room at the town office, prior to a regular meeting of the select board.
After the special town meeting was adjourned, the first order of business for selectmen was their own vote authorizing the signing of the contract with Sundog.
A couple of questions came from the public before that vote that were not raised during the special town meeting. One resident asked if there was any up front money from the town for the project.
“Not at all,” Buck said.
Another asked if the town was obligated to purchase the array once the lease with Sundog expires in six years. Buck said the town isn’t under any obligation, but will have the option the purchase the solar array.
Selectmen voted unanimously to authorize Town Manager Chris Saunders to sign the contract with Sundog Solar. Co-owner Chuck Piper attended the meeting for questions and to sign the contract on behalf of the company.
The authorization to enter into a lease agreement was brought to voters, per recommendation of the town’s attorney Selectmen opted to call a special town meeting at the earliest possible date in order to begin installation of the solar array before winter.
It is expected to be up to 500 panels on the three-acre landfill located across the parking lot from the town office.
Power from the array will feed about 192,000 kilowatts back into the Emera Maine power grid in its first year. Savings for the town in electricity costs over the next 25 years is expected to be about $400,000.
Several other towns on the island have installed solar arrays to offset their electricity costs. This array will be the largest on Mount Desert Island to date, according to members of the organization A Climate To Thrive.
A Climate To Thrive worked with members of the Tremont Solar Task Force over the last year to bring this project to fruition.
Closed since 1996, the town landfill site is not eligible for many uses because of environmental concerns. Installation of a solar array is an acceptable use because it will not puncture the cap on the landfill.