By Rachel Goff and Lisa Loomis
Voters in Waitsfield and Warren approved bond votes to fund the construction of solar arrays that will save the towns money while reducing their carbon footprint.
The Australian ballot bond vote was May 6. Waitsfield voters cast 197 yes votes to 43 no votes for a total of 240 votes. Warren voters cast 141 yes to 47 no votes for 188 total votes cast.
This week Warren taxpayers approved a bond of $462,829, subject to reduction by grants, for the installation of a 162 kW municipal solar array behind Brooks Field at Warren Elementary School.
The 522-panel array will produce 165 kWh of net-metered energy a year, which will offset about 88 percent of the town and town school district load. It will be installed by the Waitsfield-based company, Aegis Renewable Energy, and will occupy a total area of 45 by 500 feet split between two locations: a strip of land between the road on the far side of Brooks Field and the forest behind it, and another strip of land at the edge of the field within the town-owned Eaton Parcel.
The array's interface will be accessible by anyone on the internet in real time via a link on the town website, and Warren Elementary School students can learn about renewable energy by analyzing the output of a system they can see from their classroom.
In the end, the board asked taxpayers to approve a 20-year bond for the array which comes with a 25-year warranty for generating at least 80 percent of its original output. After 25 years, the panels will still generate electricity but at a decreasing efficiency and the financing plan accounts for annual maintenance and equipment replacement costs.
Waitsfield voters approved a $306,000 bond for a solar installation that will make the town offices net zero and also provide electricity for the fire station, the Wait House, the school, the town garage, the library and potentially the street lights on Bridge Street. The project will make Waitsfield's new town offices completely net zero.
Waitsfield is also applying for a grant from Vermont's Clean Energy Development Fund. The maximum allowable grant amount is $125,000. Grant applications are due May 9.
Over the life of the project it will generate electricity sufficient to result in an accumulated cash flow of $149,000 if the town does not receive a grant. If the town receives a grant the accumulated cash flow from the project over 25 years will be $259,000.
The array will be constructed at the Waitsfield town garage (off Tremblay Road) and will feature 330 fixed panels. The solar array is a 102 kW array. It was downsized from the original proposal of 120 kW. The town is working with Nils Behn of Aegis Renewable Energy in Waitsfield on the project.
The project will take up 150 by 130 feet, or approximately half of a football field and will offset about 90 percent of the total municipal load. As proposed the town will own the solar panel array and its life expectancy is 25 years.