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Lincolnville ponders solar energy options for town-owned buildings

By Kim Lincoln | Jul 01, 2016
Courtesy of: Town of Lincolnville The proposed location, next to the Lincolnville Fire Station, for a solar array.

Lincolnville — Lincolnville is considering using solar energy to power town-owned buildings.

The Board of Selectmen voted June 27 to have Town Administrator David Kinney prepare a request for proposal to find out the costs behind such a move.

The goal is to cover 90 percent of the current town electricity demands with solar, to lower the community's carbon footprint and to save the town money in the long term, according to an energy report released June 27.

The current concept is to install solar panels to power the Town Office, Lincolnville Fire Station, Lincolnville Beach Fire Station, on the decorative sidewalk lights at the beach, the sand/salt storage building, the Breezemere Park bandstand and the pier, Kinney said. The plan does not include Lincolnville Central School.

In February, the board authorized an ad hoc committee to look at town-owned buildings to see if there were things the town could do better in terms of energy and energy usage, Kinney said. The Energy Team reported their findings at the June 27 meeting.

Since the Fire Department was built in 2010 and the Town Office was expanded in 2013, the town learned it is doing pretty well with energy usage, but a couple of areas were identified that could use improvement, Kinney said.

One is solar energy and the other is switching the streetlights in the beach area to from sodium vapor lamps to LED.

"While our larger goal is to help create a renewable energy future, and work toward energy independence, we feel that energy conservation and installing an array of solar panels to cover a majority of our town's electricity needs are steps we can take that will benefit the town now and into the future," the June 27 Energy Team report states.

A site next to the Lincolnville Fire Station has been identified as a possible location to install solar panels.

The Energy Team suggests, according to the report, the town enter into a long-term solar power purchase agreement. With this type of arrangement, the town would continue to pay for electricity at a contracted rate for a given period of time — estimated about seven years — but rather than paying Central Maine Power, the town would pay a power-purchase-agreement investor. Then down the road, the town would have an option to purchase the panels at approximately half of the current cost.

The request for proposal will address how the solar power purchase agreement works, costs between not pursuing the project or to enter into an agreement, future cost projections, liability, what the town's electric energy bill would look like and how will the Public Utilities Commission rulings impact the project.

The proposed timeline includes a public hearing prior to the Board of Selectmen signing an agreement with the solar installer at a Sept. 26 or Oct. 1 meeting. By year's end, Lincolnville's electricity could be coming from the sun.

The Lincolnville Community Library, which opened in 2014, is already powered by solar energy. Thirty solar panels on the roof generate all the electricity the library needs. The library received a grant from Efficiency Maine to support the installation of the solar panels and the development of educational programs about renewable resource technology, according to the library website.

Belfast has made similar moves to install solar arrays to run city-owned buildings. In 2015, the city installed an 180-panel array atop the Belfast Fire Station and this year installed the first-ever solar array at a former landfill.

Under the agreement, the city pays ReVision Energy, at a discounted price, for the electricity produced by the solar array. After six years, the city has the option to purchase the system at a fair market price or continue to buy the energy from ReVision. ReVision is responsible for building, owning and operating the solar system for the duration of the agreement and for maintaining and insuring the solar systems.

There is also discussion, separate from the town project, about a community solar farm in Lincolnville. An informational meeting was held June 29 at the Lincolnville Improvement Association Building.

Bob Olson, a member of the town's Energy Team, said he got in touch with Chuck Piper from Sun Dog Solar, located in Searsport, to set up the meeting. Olson said about 20 people came to the meeting and a few expressed interest in the project.

Olson said the community solar project could also be used by residents in other towns as well and he would like to see Lincolnville become a model for the area.

"There's a lot of energy up here, from the sun and otherwise," Kinney said.

Courier Publications Editor Kim Lincoln can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at klincoln@villagesoup.com.

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Comments (1)
Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Jul 02, 2016 15:14

WOW! What a wonderful project and sure helps save the environment. Long term savings and this surely helps the next generation.



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