Three developers submit proposals to Deerfield for solar farm on former landfill



Last modified: Wednesday, December 10, 2014

DEERFIELD — Three proposals submitted to the Energy Resources Committee by interested developers over the past year provide the town with a view of several possibilities for a solar farm on its former landfill.

Committee members Kristan Bakker and M.A. Swedlund recently described to the Select Board options available to the town.

According to Bakker, all of the proposals were unsolicited because of the site’s attractiveness. If the capped landfill does become home to an electricity-producing solar farm, the town and its residents could stand to save money on electricity costs depending on the model and the agreement struck with the developer, Bakker and Swedlund said.

Bakker said revenue from a solar development would come in the form of lease payments based on the acreage used, and payments in lieu of taxes based on the size of the array in megawatts.

Bakker and Swedlund recommended hiring an experienced “owner-agent” to help look out for the town’s interests as they negotiate any potential agreements. They recommended Beth Greenblatt, an energy consultant from Beacon Integrated Solutions of Boston. According to Swedlund, Greenblatt has worked on similar projects with the Franklin Regional Council of Governments.

There are two types of agreements available to the town.

The first, known as net metering, would see the town purchase credits from the owner of the solar project, whether it is on the landfill or off-site, to be applied against the town’s energy bill. That type of agreement usually carries long-term contracts up to 20 years, said Bakker.

Generally, the electricity is provided to the town at a cost lower than the market rate, she said.

Under the second option, a power-purchasing agreement, the town would buy electricity produced by a solar farm directly from an energy company or aggregator. When purchased from a conventional supplier, such as the Western Massachusetts Electric Co., it usually involves locking in a rate to avoid unexpected fluctuations in price. When purchased from a solar developer, the electricity is bought for a predetermined price, which “escalates” by a set percentage each year. Deerfield currrently has this arrangement with the Hampshire Regional Council of Governments, Bakker said.

A third possibility for developing the landfill, she said, involves a “community-shared solar” project, under which a solar array is built and the town, as well as individual residents, are able to “buy” the rights to one or more of the panels and have the electricity they produce delivered to their homes.

According to Bakker, the landfill has three separate lots — a total of 41 acres — on which a solar energy project could be sited. She said those lots could accommodate between two and four megawatts of ground-mounted solar panels. Currently, she said, the town only uses about 0.8 megawatts of electricity.

Developers have presented three models to the town so far — a commercially owned solar array with a 20 percent discount off the utility rate submitted by The Solare Company of San Jose, Calif., a commercially owned system with a set rate and 2.5 percent escalator submitted by Lake Street Development Partners of Washington, D.C., and a hybrid business-community owned system proposed by Community Green Energy, of Lake Geneva, Wis.

Bakker also presented an option for a community-shared solar project based on one developed by Coop Power of Hatfield. While Swedlund said there is currently no proposal from a developer for that model, she expects there will be in the future.

Last year, the town solicited bids from companies interested in developing the landfill, eventually choosing American Capital Energy of Lowell to install a four-megawatt solar farm on the property. That project was later postponed due to concerns about whether it was in the best interest of the town.


 

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