By Steev Riccardo
“The notion of solar energy and other forms of clean energy is attractive to many of us. I look forward to the day when all of our energy sources might be entirely solar or wind or geothermal.”
- Jonathan Ruda, Dudley Selectman
It’s hard to believe that the idea of solar energy, which is a clean, eco-friendly, and cost effective way to provide electricity, would not be taken as a serious alternative in these difficult financial times by everyone, and apparently in Massachusetts it is.
Dudley is just one of the towns that is taking the opportunities that solar energy offers very seriously.
Nancy Runkle, town planner in Dudley
“Dudley’s EPG solar project is still on course and we are looking forward to soon joining Southbridge in gaining solar power for the town,” said town planner Nancy Runkle of the project, which straddles both towns.
“It’s been a project with a lot of cooperation between Southbridge and Dudley, so not only are we making progress locally in solar power, but I like to think that we are making progress regionally.”
The EPG Solar project will help lower the town of Dudley’s overall electric bill, which in turns reduces the cost to taxpayers.
“I am also excited to read about other solar projects in the region because I think it’s good for all of us,” said Runkle.
In many cases towns do not need to go out and actively pursue solar projects because companies are contacting the towns.
There is also a certain amount of acreage required for these projects, and as selectman Ruda points out, there are long term considerations as well.
“The reality of the situation today is that at the end of the clean energy rainbow is a contract that needs to be carefully and thoughtfully scrutinized.”
This may explain why solar projects are moving along, but also why towns are being cautious before going all in. The town of Oxford recently found out that you have to be careful which companies you deal with as well.
Last fall Oxford thought it had secured a deal to put solar panels on nine of their town buildings when the Connecticut company they were dealing with, DCS Solar, could not get the panels they needed to complete the entire project.
Facilities maintenance coordinator Dick Donais was even more frustrated when the remaining buildings included in the project also hit a snag.
“The inspector general in Massachusetts put up enough of a stink about DCS and its business practices, saying that it was not in compliance with procurement laws to lease these spaces out to them without putting it out to a competitive bid. DCS, rather than fight them, pulled out of Massachusetts all together.
“I haven’t given up all together on this idea,” said Donais, “before I am done at least one building will have solar, even if I have to buy it myself.”
Oxford has also made recent advancements with some solar farm projects. “We have received proposals from two companies that are interested in leasing town-owned land to develop a solar farm,” said Town Manager Joe Zeneski.
“The most favorable of the two (proposals) I sent off to town counsel and there is a potential here for the town to realize some real savings. What we are looking at is a combination of cash payment for the lease and the discounted cost of energy that is done through net meter credits.”
Zeneski said that there is a potential to save five cents per kilowatt hour, about 40% off the electrical bill, which, Zeneski said is “huge” and could save the town tens of thousands of dollars.
“Our town counsel is looking at this now and I will be presenting it to the selectman at the next meeting on July 24. If I can save money, that is a good thing; then I can do more with the money I have left,” said Zeneski.
“If I can benefit the tax payer by doing this in so far that I can get more bang for the buck that they give me, then I can save money, and that is more money for paving roads or educating children or enforcing speed limits, all those things that people want us to do, I can do, if I am not paying more for electricity.”
The town also has another application from a developer for a 16-acre solar farm on 51 Federal Hill Road at a private residence, according to Zeneski. That project is also awaiting approval from the planning board.
Webster Town Administrator John McAuliffe also sees opportunities for the town of Webster. “We have already sought out and secured approval from town meeting to lease out space in two locations to install solar panels. This is a project that will happen.”
There is also discussion in Webster to put solar panels on several locations around town, including the auditorium at the town hall, the Sitkowski building, and the new police station. All are under consideration, McAuliffe said.
The beauty of these solar farms is that you can put them on top of landfills that are currently not being used for anything. The town of Canton is just one of many Massachusetts towns that is currently doing just that.
Green Energy News recently said this about the Canton project, “A great perk from this solar array will be the revenue for the otherwise modest town of Canton, which will add up to about $70 million and provide energy savings over 25 years.”
Savings like that are definitely something that small towns need to consider.
- Wednesday, 18 July 2012
- Posted in Categories: : Region