The same type of solar array proposed to reduce town energy costs in Waitsfield will be considered in Moretown next week.

Town officials in Moretown will consider an opportunity to install a 150kW fixed solar array on the hill behind the elementary school at their June 7 meeting. The Moretown Energy Committee will meet to discuss the proposal from Encore Redevelopment on June 3 at 6:30 p.m. at the town offices and will make a recommendation to the select board.

(Waitsfield officials met with Encore Redevelopment officials on May 17 and have since then issued a Request for Proposals for a solar array.)

Select board member Dave Van Deusen has met with representatives from Encore Redevelopment who visited several potential town sites for the large solar installation. The hill behind the school, the same location as the leach field, was determined to be the best location.

Van Deusen said that the town's zoning administrator, Deb Feldman, said that "she does not foresee any problem with such a project."

The panels would be owned and installed (on town land) by Encore Redevelopment; Encore Redevelopment would be responsible for their upkeep and maintenance and would cover the entire $800,000 installation cost. The town will have to sign a power purchase agreement with the company that spells out the terms of the electricity purchase and the town's intent to purchase the system from Encore Redevelopment.

After six years, according to Van Deusen, the town is expected to buy the system from Encore for $250,000, or they have the option to buy them after 10 years for $200,000. The town will be responsible for replacing the system inverter approximately every 10 years; large-scale inverters can cost up to $30,000 apiece.

"The fact that we would have to plan to upgrade our inverter every 10 years is a drawback (considering the cost), but given that large electricity bill savings during that 10-year time ($250,000 to $200,000) I think it is well worth it," Van Deusen said.

The fixed location panels would generate 150kW of electricity per year; enough to power 25 average sized homes or 80 percent of the electricity used by the school, town office, library, town hall, garage, fire station and street lights, Van Deusen estimated.

If the town allows Encore Redevelopment to install the solar panels, they will receive 10 percent off of the total town/school electricity bill every year that Encore Redevelopment owns the panels. Over the course of the next six years, Van Deusen said that the installation would save taxpayers $12,000 to $15,000.

According to Van Deusen's report, "All of this is made possible because the state and federal governments have created incentives for private investors to put money into solar energy. Unfortunately towns are not directly eligible for these incentives, hence Encore has lined up investors who will cover money not granted by the state and fed concerning the initial $800,000 costs.  In turn these private investors will reap certain tax benefits for a period of years. After this the solar plant will be sold to the town at a greatly reduced rate.

"As a town, we could never afford to build a 150kW solar plant on our own. While it is true that the town/school spends about $25,000 a year on electricity bills per year, the savings that we would accrue after investing $800,000 would mean that it would take over 40 years for us to make our money back. Thus this is not a project that we would consider doing on our own. However, the government money and the balance covered by Encore and their backers make this project a very real possibility," he continued.

The absolute deadline for Encore to file such solar project applications with the Vermont Public Service Board is July 15.

"After this date the incentives that make all of this possible run out, and this opportunity is gone for the foreseeable future. Before the deadline, Encore needs to do a feasibility study on the proposed location," Van Deusen added.

The select board will discuss the opportunity on Monday, June 7, at 6 p.m. in the town office. Encore Redevelopment representative Chad Farrell will be at the meeting to outline a more detailed proposal and answer questions.