Hope voters to consider powering municipal buildings with solar energy

Special Town Meeting March 26
Thu, 03/21/2019 - 8:30am

    HOPE — At a March 26 Special Town Meeting, voters in Hope will be asked to allocate funds to conduct an energy audit of three of the municipality’s buildings for the potential installation of heat pump retrofits. If this measure passes, voters will also be asked to give authority to the Board of Selectmen and the Hope Solar Committee to review the audit alongside Hope Solar Committee to negotiate a potential Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with a solar power provider.

    Click here for the warrant of the special town meeting, which also includes a proposal to spend up to $30,000 on emergency repairs to two of the town’s fire engines.

    The energy audit will include the Hope Town Office, the Hope Corner Fire Station and the South Hope Fire Station.

    The audit may cost up to $10,000, which would be paid from the town’s undesignated fund balance, and would include an engineering analysis of the potential heat pump retrofit. 

    In November 2018, the Board of Selectmen created what would become the Hope Solar Committee, an ad hoc group of citizens interested in finding alternative methods to offsetting the town’s energy costs.

    Chaired by Chris Pinchbeck, the committee developed a RFP (Request for Proposals,) seeking bids from solar power providers for a photovoltaic solar array which would deliver energy to the aforementioned municipal buildings.

    In addition to Pinchbeck, the committee consists of Rick Bresnahan, David Hall, Thomas Ingraham, Bill Jones, Ron Smith and Langley Willauer. Hope’s Tim Lock, an architect at GO Logic, acted as a consultant. 

    The RFP was then issued to potential bidders by the Board of Selectmen, which asked that respondents provide a variety of scenarios for the project, some of which would include the delivery of solar energy to additional facilities, such as the town’s salt shed and the Hope Elementary School.

    The two companies to reply to the RFP were Sundog Solar and Revision Energy, and their proposals appear on the Town of Hope website. (Hope has set up a page dedicated to the solar proposal documents.)

    Both proposals designate a site in town proposed by the Solar Committee for the photovoltaic array, which is a town-owned field adjacent to the True Park Playing Field, on Route 105 near Hope Corner and the Hope Town Office.

    The RFP issued by the town states that approximately 60,000 kilowatt hours are used each year by the Town Office, the two fire stations and the salt shed combined; it estimates that alternately a 46 kilowatt solar array could provide 95 to 100 percent of this electricity.

    The RFP sought estimates to also retrofit the heat pumps at the Hope Town Office and the Hope Corner Fire Station.

    This story has been edited to reflect that the committee received four scenarios but chose to go with one, which is called Scenario No. 2.

    What the Hope Solar Committee recommended was to purchase a system, as funded by a PPA via Revision Energy for Scenario 2 as outlined in the RFP, according Pinchbeck.
    This scenario carries a purchase price at Year 6 of $68,789, “and acts to cover all the electrical needs, as well as supplement heating costs,” said Pinchbeck.

    The companies estimated that after a 30-year period, cost savings to the town would amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    A March 18 press release distributed by the Hope Solar Committee said that a portion of the project’s cost would be paid for by monies pledged, and that additional expenses would be paid by a third party who would ultimately own the solar array and sell the electricity to the town at a discounted rate.

     “Already, Hope citizens have pledged $41,000 to reduce the tax burden from the project’s initial costs,” the release said. “An outside investor will finance and own the solar part of the proposed system through a power purchase agreement. Energy produced will be sold to the town at a reduced rate for an agreed period (typically 6 years.) At the end of that time the Town will purchase the system for only 44 percent of the original cost.”

    The Special Town Meeting will also ask Hope voters to authorize the Board of Selectmen to spend up to $30,000 on emergency repairs to two of the town’s fire engines. The meeting will be held Tuesday, March 26, at 6:30 p.m. at the Hope Elementary School.

    Reach Louis Bettcher at new@penbaypilot.com