Sunny outlook: Town banks on solar plan to save on electricity
Updated 8:17 pm, Thursday, May 17, 2012
A "major" photovoltaic installation atop Fairfield's closed landfill could save the town money on electric bills, while costing nothing.
Assistant Public Works Director Ed Boman outlined that sunny scenario Wednesday to the Board of Selectmen, explaining the savings on electricity could be realized by participating in the 2012 Energy Act.
The state program would provide "renewable energy credits," and a federal investment tax credit would be available to a private company to build, install and run the photovoltaic, or solar panel, installation. In turn, the company -- not yet selected -- would sell the electricity it generates to the town.
The PV installation would provide about 90 percent of the electricity needed for the town's Senior Center, the Health Department annex, the Department of Public Works garage buildings, the transfer station, and the water-pollution control facility.
Boman said the contract would be awarded in a reverse auction, providing a dollar value per renewable energy credit. One renewable energy credit is defined as the amount of electricity produced each year in megawatt hours. The lowest price bid by a PV developer will be awarded a contract, and the dollar amount will be fixed for 15 years.
"The private entity designs and finances the PV installation," Boman said, and owns and operates the power source for 20 years.
At the end of 20 years, the town can buy the equipment, extend the contract, or tell the company to remove its equipment. If the company goes bankrupt, or the design doesn't work, the town has no costs at all, he said.
Boman said the program would prove cheaper than the town issuing bids for electricity providers every two or three years and, over the 20 years, could conservatively save the town $1 million.
"This is very exciting to me," Selectman Cristin McCarthy Vahey said.
Boman said the town also will submit a proposal for a methane-gas generator at the water-pollution control facilty, but the town would finance that through the Water Pollution Control Authority.
"That's a technology we understand," Boman said.
There is currently a methane generator in use at Police Department headquarters, but the new technology would be twice the size of that one, according to Boman, and would provide heat and electricity.
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