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Warren Select Board hears further information on solar array

On Tuesday, September 24, Nils Behn returned to the Warren Select Board with more detailed financing options for a installing a solar array behind Brooks Field at Warren Elementary School.

The solar array, which would be installed by Behn's company, Aegis Renewable Energy, would occupy a strip of land of about 40 feet by 300 feet between the road on the far side of the field and the forest behind it. The array would include 330 solar panels and produce just over 100 kilowatts of net-metered electricity.

"I think we all believe this will be a real boon for the town if we can hit all of the markers that [Behn] says," select board chair Andy Cunningham said, speaking for the board.

According to Behn, once installed, the array would have an output of $0.21/kWh. Currently, Warren's school load is $0.13/kWh and Warren's municipal load is $0.13/kWh. If 89 percent of the array output goes to the school, as Behn recommends, it would cover 100 percent of its load.

Under Act 60 of the Vermont Legislature, or the Equal Education Opportunity Act, Warren Elementary School pays two times its total expenses to the state, so lowering the school's electricity costs by installing the solar array would decrease that payment, Behn explained.

Currently, Behn is investigating two options for financing the estimated $350,000 solar array: a one to seven year lease and a 3 percent loan.

If the town were to finance the array with a one to seven year lease, it would not have to pay any up-front installation costs but would see 100 percent of the return. Behn estimates the lease option would provide about $1.5 million in lifetime savings not including tax benefits, which Behn does not think the town would be able to claim, as it would not technically own the array.

If the town were to finance the array with a 3 percent loan, "the economic benefits are even better," Behn said, explaining that Warren would see 100 percent of the return and a lifetime savings of $1.6 million. The town would have to pay an up-front installation cost of about $38,000, however, "so it's really just a question of whether the town has any desire to put money down," Behn said.

Moving forward, Behn will send detailed calculation charts for both financing options to the select board for further review.

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