A greener approach



At town meeting earlier this month, Bar Harbor voters gave the Town Council authority to enter into long-term leases to facilitate the location of solar energy installations on public property. While most agreed there’s not a lot of financial upside to the town doing so, the consensus seemed to be that the move towards a greater reliance on renewable energy sources needs to start somewhere, and now is the time.

Several proposals have been floated. Undoubtedly more are in the offing. The approach, however, seems to be backwards, at least from the town’s perspective.

In each instance so far, representatives of Revision Energy, a company that stands to make a tidy profit from the tax incentives involved, have pitched individual plans to the town. One scenario involves placing solar panels on the roof of the town’s new salt shed. Another eyes a parcel of land in Salisbury Cove. The idea of covering the roof of the new municipal public works garage with solar panels also has been mentioned.

Town officials, however, have little experience in the industry and no way of knowing whether these plans are in the best interests of the town. Instead, perhaps the town should issue a request for proposals, soliciting bids for a solar installation under similar terms from more than one vendor. Then, there would be a way to evaluate comparable offers.

At town meeting, the debate centered on whether or not the town wished to get involved in promoting installations. That question has been settled – it does. The clock is ticking on federal tax credits that step down to only ten percent at the end of the 2016, and expire in 2018. The town’s focus now should be on getting the absolute “greenest” deal, from a financial perspective, for participating residents and the taxpayers. That requires talking to more than one alternative energy provider at a time.

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