By Ralph Morang email@example.com
ELIOT, Maine The town’s second photovoltaic solar array was officially opened Friday morning.
A crowd made up of town municipal staff, committee members, solar panel installers, power company representatives, elected representatives, officials from the school district and neighboring towns, and interested citizens attended.
ReVision Energy installed the 132-kilowatt solar array on the capped landfill site next to the transfer station at 468 Dow Highway (Route 236). The array, made up of 384 photovoltaic panels will supply 95 percent of the towns municipal electric power needs.
Town Manager Dana K. Lee welcomed the crowd. Ive been here four and a half years, and weve been working on this since I arrived, he said.
Ed Henningsen, chairman of the towns Capital Improvement and Energy Commission, gave a history of the project. He thanked Charlie Case and Ben Brickett of the original Energy Commission for starting it in 2014. He said when they had to leave the commission, he took it over.
I have to admit, that I was not really sold on solar, he said. But I spent some time researching the numbers, and it changed my mind and I felt it was worth promoting.
The first time the solar array was presented on the ballot in 2016, it was voted down, Henningsen said, because the Maine Public Utilities Commission stated it did not know what the future of net metering would be. Net metering is the method by which the power from a grid-tied solar array is credited to the arrays owner by the power company.
Net metering issues were resolved, but credit for the power produced was reduced from 100 percent to 95 percent for 2018. In June 2018, the array was approved, and the town set a goal of commissioning the array by the end of 2018, when net metering credits would be reduced again. It began running Dec. 20.
Nick Sampson of ReVision Energy said construction began on one of the snowiest Novembers he can remember. He said the array would produce 171,000 kilowatt hours of clean energy annually for the next 40 years. Financing was done through a power purchase agreement with no up-front cost to Eliot for the $310,000 installation. The town will purchase the solar-generated power for five years at a 4-cent discount per kilowatt hour, and after five years can purchase the array at 60 percent of installation cost. Sampson said the solar array would save the town $1 million in electricity costs over 40 years.
ReVision installed the towns first solar array on the roof of the Department of Public Works garage in 2013. The town is now preparing to purchase that array. It offsets the cost of electricity at the town garage and the transfer station.
Jennifer Mazzaro of Central Maine Power said her company works with towns to insure satisfaction, and she commended Eliot for setting goals for renewable energy.
South Berwick Town Manager Perry Ellsworth said from the crowd that Eliots success with two solar energy projects will help to encourage other towns to look into renewable energy.
Resident Janet Saurman asked if schools could study the array and its workings. Lee said people soon will be able to monitor the power production on the towns website, and that a drone has taken aerial footage of the array.
Officials and residents clomped over the snow-covered frozen ground to witness the ribbon-cutting to officially commission the towns new solar array.