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Shutesbury seeks ways to use extra  energy from fire department solar panels

The Shutesbury’s Energy Committee met on Monday night to discuss that and a prospective deal with ALTRU Energy LCC of Pennsylvania to host a solar farm in Shutesbury.

Shutesbury Town Administrator Becky Torres said the 15-kilowatt photovoltaic system at the fire station cost $72,300 and was funded by a Green Community Grant provided by the state.

This is the town’s second major solar project since the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) began its RPS Solar Carve-out program in 2009. According to the DOER website, the program is a market-based incentive program to support residential, commercial, public and nonprofit entities in developing 400-megawatt solar photovoltaic installations across the state. Shutesbury built its first photovoltaic system in 2010, a 10-kilowatt project at the town hall. That project cost approximately $64,000. Torres estimates that $52,000 of the cost was covered by various grants, and $12,000 was supplied by the town.

The Energy Committee says that the solar panels at Town Hall supply 40 percent of the energy used in the building. In addition to the free renewable energy the panels provide, photovoltaic systems also produce Solar Renewable Energy Credits for the town, which may then be sold to energy providers such as National Grid and Western Mass Electric Company. Torres says the prices for these energy credits were higher when the market first opened in 2010.

“The first year we could get $600 for one megawatt hour” says Torres. “But now the market is oversaturated, so the prices have dropped.” The Energy Committee predicts that they will be able to get $200 per for each megawatt hour the town produces this year.

In its first year, Shutesbury was able to make $12,000 from from the system at the Town Hall. This year the town expects to make just $400 per quarter. The energy committee is holding its energy credits for the end-of-the-year auction, where it hopes to sell them for more than it could get through private aggregators.

The Energy Committee also discussed a potential contract with AlTRU Energy LCC, which is planning to build a solar farm in Shutesbury. Under the agreement, the town would receive a discount on the electricity it receives from the solar installation. According to Torres, the Select Board has the authority to sign for a 20-year contract with ALTRU.

Torres said, however, that Shutesbury is not interested in buying electricity from the ALTRU solar farm.

“We want to create our own power, not just get a discount,” says Becky Torres, “We have aspirations of building our own.”

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