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By Lisa Loomis
The Waitsfield Select Board will hold a special meeting tonight, March 27, to work on a bond vote warning for a solar array that would supply most of the electricity needed for the new town offices, the fire station, the Wait House, the school, the town garage, the library and the street lights on Bridge Street. The Waitsfield Select Board meeting tonight is at 7 p.m.
Warren is considering a similar but slightly larger project that will provide power for its school, town offices, library, fire station, Blair House, town hall and town garage.
Both towns will be bringing their voters a bond proposal in the coming weeks and both towns are applying for grants from the state of Vermont's Clean Energy Development Fund. The maximum allowable grant amount is $125,000. Grant applications are due May 9.
Both Warren and Waitsfield will be bringing bond votes forward for their solar projects next month. Waitsfield's bond vote would be May 6.
The Waitsfield Select Board met with Nils Behn of Aegis Renewable Energy, Waitsfield, at its regular meeting on March 24. The Warren Select Board has also been working with Behn. Behn and the Waitsfield Select Board discussed a project that will cost $355,000, less any grants received. It would feature 400 solar panels and would produce 119,000kW per year. (According to Behn, an average house uses about 7,500kW per year.)
The select board is considering whether the panels should be located in the northwest corner of the town garage lot, at the top of Tremblay Road, or on the open field known as the Munn site on Route 100 across from the Valley Professional Center.
The project will take up 150 by 130 feet, or approximately half of a football field, and will offset about 95 percent of the total municipal load. As proposed, the town will own the solar panel array and its life expectancy is 25 years. Over that time the town will save over $269,000 in electrical costs.
The project will make Waitsfield's new town offices completely net zero. Architect Bill Maclay had already been working on a highly energy-efficient building which will rely on an air-to-air heat pump for its heat. The electricity for that heat pump will be coming from the solar panels that will make the building one of the first, if not the first, completely net-zero town office building in the state.
In Warren, a slightly larger project is anticipated. Warren's proposed project will cost $460,000 and will be closer to 160,000kW per year. The size of Warren's project dictates that it will require the installation of three-phase power.
Last December, the Warren Select Board voted to pursue the project. As proposed it will be located on a strip of land about 40 by 300 feet between the road on the far end of Brooks Field and the woods behind it.
The array will include 330 solar panels and produce just over 100kW of net-metered electricity.
Warren town administrator Cindi Jones said that the select board will be submitting a grant application. She explained that two members of the select board, two members of the school board, Washington West Supervisory Union business manager Michelle Baker and legal counsel are currently creating a memorandum of understanding between the town and the school spelling out the terms of how the two entities will partner in and pay for the project.
Jones said that Warren voters are likely to see a bond vote for this project at the end of April.