By Liz Graves, staff writer
Mount Desert Islander news story
BAR HARBOR — Plans for ReVision Energy to install solar panels on the Public Works office building here to supply electricity for town use took a step forward Tuesday. The Town Council voted unanimously to appoint a committee to negotiate terms of a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with the nonprofit solar group.
The committee includes Town Manager Cornell Knight, councilors Paul Paradis and Gary Friedmann, Public Works Director Chip Reeves and Warrant Committee member Seth Libby. They are tasked with submitting a proposal by July 30 to go in the council’s information packet for their Aug. 4 meeting. ReVision hopes to have an agreement in place by Aug. 15 in order to install and commission the project this year.
Under the concept proposal presented by ReVision finance director Steve Hinchman, the company would install and own the solar array on the Public Works office and sell electricity to the town at a negotiated rate. The town would have the option to buy the system after the first six years of operations. The PPA will lay out terms for this system between the town, ReVision and Emera Maine.
In introducing the proposal, Friedmann said two of the council’s five-year goals developed this year include “investing in and benefiting from solar technology responsibly sited on public or private facilities” and evaluating the town’s rooftops for feasibility of solar systems.
One reason the Community Solar Farm (CSF) proposal earlier this year was planned for the salt shed at the Public Works facility was because that roof was not on the list of sites identified by the evaluation as a good candidate for a PPA system. “It would keep the rest of the roof and the ground free for a PPA in the future,” he said. Immediately following the June vote on a warrant article allowing leases for both PPA and CSF projects, ReVision came up with this PPA proposal to provide most of the electricity consumed at the public works site, he said.
“They wanted to go with this first, partly because there was no controversy about those roofs, and it could get off the ground very quickly if the council agrees to the terms.”
Councilor David Bowden suggested allowing members of the public who were present at the meeting to offer their questions or comments as the council discussed the proposal with Hinchman. The councilors’ information packet also included an email exchange between Hinchman, Knight and Planning Board member and Jackson Laboratory Facilities Director John Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick questioned the proposed rate schedule and noted that the town technically will not be allowed to take public credit for renewable energy production while ReVision owns the system and sells the associated renewable energy credits (RECs) on the open market.
Warrant committee members James Kitler and Seth Libby also spoke, citing uncertainty in the regulatory environment and advocating an open request-for-proposals process.
“I share Mr. Kitler’s concerns, and I think we’ve addressed them,” Paradis said. Those concerns include how long federal tax credits will be in place and how and whether Emera reimburses the town [or owner of a solar array] for power when the meter “runs backwards.”
For a project built this year, ReVision will be able to take advantage of existing tax credits before they change.
The reimbursement question is part of a law passed this session by the Maine Legislature, LD 1263, co-sponsored by Representative Brian Hubbell. “It forms a stakeholder group of renewable power producers and the state’s utilities to come up with a longer term plan to reimburse distributed power generation,” Hubbell said.