The Waitsfield Select Board has chosen a company to install an array of solar trackers either at the town garage or on the Munn Field on Route 100 south of the village.

The board, at a June 14 meeting, reviewed proposals from three companies that responded to a request for proposals (RFP) from the town for a 150kW solar project.

The town selected a proposal from AllEarth Renewables, Williston, for an installation of up to 25 solar trackers. The town also received a proposal from Encore Redevelopment, Burlington, and EnCompass Energy LLC, Waitsfield.

PURCHASE SYSTEM

Encore Redevelopment approached the town in May with a proposal to install 750 fixed solar panels on an acre and a half of town land if the town would sign a power purchase agreement with the company for 10 years and then agree to purchase the system at the end of that period.

The town opted to issue an RFP to compare the Encore Redevelopment proposal to other companies currently offering solar arrays to take advantage of federal and state tax incentives that expire at the end of the year.

The AllEarth Renewables proposal is similar to the Encore Redevelopment proposal in that the company will construct the system and sell the energy to the town for a fixed number of years. This proposal differs from the Encore Redevelopment proposal in that the town would not be required to purchase the system at the end of the lease agreement.

ENERGY COSTS

The select board had asked the town budget committee and the town's energy committee to review the proposals and make a recommendation. Select board member Bill Parker, who serves on the budget committee, said that while there was no clear "winner," the AllEarth Renewables proposal had more going for it. Steve Shea, planning commission chair and a member of the energy committee, reported that all three proposals would save the town money on energy costs and all would result in the town sourcing its own electricity from renewable energy.

The AllEarth Renewables proposal calls for the town to sign a five-year contract to purchase the power for 18 cents per kilowatt hour. After five years, the town would have the option of purchasing the system for $186,000, or after 10 years for $124,000. Should the town purchase the system, the town would be able to sell any overproduction of power at market rates, plus receive six cents per kilowatt hour from Green Mountain Power for producing electricity.

The board ultimately opted to ask AllEarth Renewables to provide the specs for a system that would produce 150kW per year with solar trackers and to analyze both the town garage and Munn Field sites for feasibility.

MEMBER MANAGED

The cost to build either the fixed panel installation or the trackers is about $800,000. The third proposal, from EnCompass Energy, is to create a local member-managed company to develop solar projects on municipal land or on private land but with community ownership. Under that proposal, EnCompass would hire a contractor to install the system and would help the town/community create the legal entity capable of managing such an installation.

 The Vermont Public Service Board, which reviews solar installations that feed into the existing electricity grid, has issued a cutoff date of July 15 for applications for 150kW solar arrays in order to review all of them by the end of the year.

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