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Official: Bill clouds plans for solar farm  

Credit:  By Dan Magazu, Sentinel & Enterprise, www.sentinelandenterprise.com 23 September 2010 ~~

LUNENBURG – Opposition to a wind energy bill could halt the town’s plans to lease out space at the landfill off Youngs Road for a 1 megawatt solar farm, according to Town Manager Kerry Speidel.

A section of the state bill requires utility companies to have at least 2 percent of their inventory obtained through renewable energy, which doubles the current requirement.

Speidel said without the new requirement, there won’t be any incentive for a company to build the solar farm because many utilities, such as Unitil, are already meeting the current 1 percent threshold.

“There isn’t going to be anyone interested in doing something like this unless that cap is raised,” Speidel said. “My understanding is there is a fairly substantial opposition to certain portions of that wind energy bill. Before we undertake this project, I would like to at least know there is some potential of someone purchasing this energy.”

Rep. Jen Benson, D-Lunenburg, is meeting with the House and Senate leadership this week to see if it would be possible to have the new renewable energy requirement approved separately from the rest of the bill.

“I believe there is strong support for raising that cap, but it only takes one person working against a bill to stop it in an informal session,” Benson said. “It’s important to do the ground work and make sure it has unanimous support.”

Benson said raising the cap to 2 percent wouldn’t put too much of a burden on utility companies.

“It’s a modest increase that would allow for some new renewable energy projects in the state,” she said. “I believe California is at 5 percent.”

Legislators will have to act quickly, as the clock is ticking for the town to move forward with its plan.

Members of the Green Communities Task Force proposed the solar farm in part to capitalize on tax credits being offered by the federal government for communities that facilitate such a project. Those credits expire Dec. 31, according to Speidel.

“We’ll have to move forward with this very quickly to meet that deadline,” Speidel said.

Steve Marsden, who chairs the Green Communities Task Force, said the landfill is a perfect spot for the farm because it can’t be used for anything else.

“It’s just fenced-off space,” Marsden said. “You can’t walk on it or anything. We wouldn’t be losing any open space.”

Selectmen have expressed unanimous support for the proposal.

“The landfill is just sitting there, and there isn’t a whole lot we can do with it to begin with, so this would be a productive use for it,” Selectman Tom Alonzo said.

Source:  By Dan Magazu, Sentinel & Enterprise, www.sentinelandenterprise.com 23 September 2010

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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