Capital City eyes going solar
MONTPELIER — It’s too early to break into a chorus of “Good Day Sunshine” but city councilors this week moved a step closer, approving the issue of a formal Request for Information to explore building a privately developed solar array on a yet-to-be-determined piece of municipal property.
If all goes as outlined by council member Anne Watson, the array could be built at no net cost to the city.
“I’ve read the material and it sounds fantastic,” said councilor Tom Golonka. “It’s almost too good to be true.”
The project could be funded by the developer through a combination of tax incentives, grants, and possible 3rd or 4th party funding according to a draft of a request for proposal that is posted on the city’s website. The array would be hooked up directly to Green Mountain Power’s grid and the city would receive stable electric rates negotiated with the successful developer. Rates terms could be negotiated for as long as ten or twenty years, with the option for the city to purchase the array at the end of the contract.
“I think that we are looking at doing one installation at first and if that works maybe we would do it again,” City Manager Bill Fraser said.
Dan Jones, chairman of the city’s energy committee, who was not in attendance at Wednesday night’s meeting, said he would encourage the city to explore building several different arrays.
“The city gets a predictable future energy cost and the bill for the city will be well below the cost from the utilities, so the more we have the more we save,” he said.
Among the potential sites mentioned for the array are municipal land adjacent to the city wastewater treatment plant, and land near Berlin Pond. In order for the array to be effective it must be sited will be sited to gain optimum sunlight and heat.
The city would need several acres to install a 150 kilowatt (kw) array and as many as seven or eight acres for a 500kw array. A 150kw array produces 150 killowats per hour on a bright sunny day, while per hour production in the cloud-covered months of winter could drop below 50 percent. Both solar power production and electricity demands on the grid are generally highest during sunny summer months. It is too soon to determine the eventual savings such an array would produce, but they would definitely help to bring down costs substantially over time.
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