Alternative Energy

Boothbay one step closer to solar power

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Saturday, February 16, 2013 - 5:00pm
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Satellite photos show future locations for Boothbay's solar panels.
Satellite photos show future locations for Boothbay's solar panels.

Plans to upgrade Boothbay's municipal buildings to solar energy advanced one step closer when the Boothbay Board of Selectmen motioned to grant authority to Town Manager Jim Chaousis to enter into a contract for the “Boothbay Smart Grid Reliability Pilot Project.”

After months of discussing the project, the Boothbay selectmen supported the proposal during the February 11 meeting, except Chuck Cunningham who was absent. However, Cunningham supported the project in previous meetings.

“It's low-risk, high reward,” Selectmen Steven Lewis said. “We would be buying power cheaper than we are now.”

The pilot project calls for $350,000 worth of solar panels to be installed on the rooftops of the Boothbay fire department, the public works garage and the waste management facility with no cost to the town or taxpayers.

The refuse district, a multi-municipal organization shared between the four towns of the Boothbay region, agreed to enter into the GridSolar agreement at the district's Board of Directors meeting February 7.

The solar panels are capable of producing up to 125,000 kilowatt hours per year, which is estimated will offset Boothbay's current energy needs for their municipal buildings.

A kilowatt hour is the unit in which energy consumption is measured and billed out by public utilities.

In comparison, the average household uses about 6,000 kilowatt hours per year.

The contract specifies after the 10 years of using solar panels, the town could then purchase the equipment for $1 a piece. The solar panels are under warranty for 25 years and are expected to last 40 years with annual maintenance costs of $400 per year.

There are three sites in Boothbay that will be leased by Boothbay Microgrid LLC, which will sell the town electricity for 2 cents cheaper per kilowatt hour than the current energy rate.

Throughout the duration of the 3-year project, three companies will be involved:  Boothbay Microgrid, GridSolar and ReVision Energy.

Boothbay Microgrid is a company that was contracted by GridSolar, a company based out of Portland.

Every month the solar power is connected and operating, Boothbay Microgrid will receive a payment from GridSolar.

“It's essentially money that Central Maine Power would have paid in order to upgrade the transmission, but now the PUC will pay for these non-transmission alternatives,” Bill Behrens, a spokesperson and co-founder of ReVision Energy said.

GridSolar was permitted by the Maine Public Utilities Commission to offer reliable energy needs to the Boothbay peninsula by providing non-transmission alternatives (energy not delivered by wire).

Behrens said solar power is a non-transmission alternative that GridSolar seeks to make more available to improve the stability of the state electric grid, and to reduce the load on the power lines during peak use in the hot summer afternoons.

“All of those non-transmission alternatives are now going to provide power to the users in Boothbay,” Behrens said.

Behrens was present at the most recent Boothbay selectmen's meeting and answered questions posed by board members about ReVision Energy.

“We're the wrench turners,” Behrens said. “We're the contractor backing up the project that will provide the construction equipment, maintenance operations and training to Boothbay Microgrid.”

Behrens said ReVision Energy has two Maine branches in Liberty and Portland, and another branch in Exeter, N.H.

ReVision Energy currently installs approximately 700 solar systems to private residences per year. Their company has converted more than 100 commercial and institutional entities to solar power throughout the state, and plans to outfit the Boothbay Region YMCA and several Boothbay Harbor hotels, which are not included in Boothbay GridSolar project.

The final contract language is still being reviewed by the Town Attorney Sally Daggett, but according to the selectmen, Chaousis has their permission to sign the contract on the condition that no big changes are made in the proposal between now and the date the contract is signed.