HOPE — The sun has work to do in Hope, where a new solar array built on an open field near the town office will gather its energy into the waiting cells and convert it to electricity, helping the town reduce its power bills, and reduce reliance on fossil fuels.
The Nov. 22 installation of the panels was marked by a celebration in the field by students of Sweetland School, an independent K-7 school that is just up the road. That day, a crew from ReVision Energy, a Liberty-based, employee-owned solar company, arrived to work on the project.
The array is anticipated to annually produce 42 kilowatts of electricity, equating to approximately 55,000 kilowatt hours. Currently, the Hope Town Office, the two fire stations and the salt-sand shed pull just a little more of that each year in electricity use from Central Maine Power.
In 2018, Elsie and Cameron Pinchbeck, students at the school that their mother, Lindsay, had founded began gathering signatures to petition the Hope Select Board to move forward with a solar energy initiative. The board responded by appointing a solar committee. That committee, in turn, assembled several proposals to put before voters.
The matter eventually went to a floor-vote, where Hope citizens approved an energy audit of the town office and two fire stations, and agreed to pursue contracting with a solar power provider to install a photovoltaic system.
The result is a public-private venture of the Town of Hope and Hope Solar LLC, which has kicked in resources and funding to contract with ReVision Energy to install the solar array, now visible on Route 105 at Hope Corner.
Hope Solar LLC financed and currently owns the array. It will be selling the the energy produced by the solar array to Hope at a reduced rate for six years, and then, through an agreement with the town, Hope will purchase the entire system for 44 percent of the original installation cost.
The power generated by the panels will run by an underground wire to a new Central Maine Power utility pole and fed to the grid.
Through a power purchase agreement, Hope Solar LLC will harness the solar power and sell the electricity at a reduced rate for an agreed period. At the end of that time the Town will purchase the system for only 44 percent of the original cost.
CMP will monitor the electricity production, as will Hope Solar LLC, which will bill the town on a quarterly basis.
On Nov. 22, students made a field trip from Sweetland School to watch the installation, as ReVision crews screwed solar panels onto the waiting frames and another crew dug the line for the power cord to run to the road.
Some of the Solar Committee, chaired by Chris Pinchbeck, were also at the site watching the progress. That committee also consists of Rick Bresnahan, David Hall, Thomas Ingraham, Bill Jones and Ron Smith. Hope’s Tim Lock, an architect at GO Logic, acted as a consultant.
The Solar Committee said, in a joint statement, that it was especially grateful to Hope Town Administration Samantha Mank, “for her help and persistence in seeing the wishes of the townspeople [165-16 vote, March 26, 2019 special town meeting] come true, as she dealt with lots of legal and personal concerns. “
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