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Board of Selectmen Hoping to Strike Gold with Solar Farm

The board approved contract for solar farm to be developed on Pine Street landfill.

The Board of Selectmen unanimously approved a contract for the development of a solar farm at the Pine Street landfill Tuesday night, while also unanimously giving the Department of Public Works the green light to complete a final design plan for renovations at that department's Bolivar Street complex.     

Southern Sky Renewable Energy (SSRE) will install and pay for more than 24,000 solar panels at the landfill, which if successful, can create considerable revenue for Canton, in addition to reducing the town's energy costs.  

The town will lease 15 acres of the landfill to SSRE for $20,000 an acre, giving the town $300,000 of lease-generated revenue in the first year of the 20-year pact (there is also a five-year option to make this a potential 25-year deal).  The lease rate increases at a 2.5 percent clip every year, giving the town the opportunity to take in more than $10 million over the course of the deal.  Canton stands to make an additional $750,000 over the course of the 25-year period through a rebate agreement.    

SSRE ultimately sells the generated electricity to NSTAR.  Currently Canton pays 17.1 cents per kilowatt hour of energy, but under the deal with SSRE, Canton will pay 16 cents, with a graduated rate increase of four percent.  In his presentation, Friel stressed that the cost of electricity has doubled since 1990, when it was just 8.5 cents per kilowatt hour.  Representatives from SSRE argued that this deal "protects the town from these unusual spikes in energy [costs] that we've had over time." 

While they ultimately voted to approve the contract, Selectmen Chairman Victor Del Vecchio and Selectmen Clerk Bob Burr both questioned if locking the town in to paying a fixed energy rate was in the best interest of the town, citing concerns over what would happen if energy costs instead decreased over the life of the contract. 

But, ultimately the B.O.S. decided the upside of this deal outweighed any potential risks.  The town can generate anywhere from $600,000 to as much as $3 million in revenue and cost savings per year.

 "I think this is a good deal," Del Vecchio said.  "I think this is what we're supposed to be doing, which is enhancing our revenues at a time when we have limited opportunities to enhance our revenues." 

 The solar farm will also use a landfill that has been capped since 1989, which as the B.O.S. and Friel pointed out, is currently an unproductive asset for the town.

"God speed, do well and make us rich," Del Vecchio told SSRE after the B.O.S. approved the execution of the lease and the net metering agreement with the company. 

Earlier in the meeting, the B.O.S. heard from D.P.W. Superintendent Michael Trotta and his team regarding plans to renovate the current D.P.W. complex.  The B.O.S. approved up to an additional $60,000 to complete the final design plans. 

The proposed project focuses on improving the existing garage and constructing a 1,700 square foot administration building.  There will also be a salt shed and a pole barn, which can be used for additional equipment storage.  The D.P.W. projects the project will cost $1.74 million, which they argue is far less than if they had looked to build an entirely new campus.  Friel said much of the proposed cost will be covered using NSTAR mitigation funds. 

While the D.P.W. still needs final approval, Friel stressed that "this is the last facility the town really needs to upgrade."  Selectman John Connolly said "it's something we have to do…the men and women of the D.P.W. deserve this."  

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