MASHPEE – Officials in town have a sunny outlook when it comes to energy costs.
Selectmen last week approved the installation of solar panels on three town buildings, paving the way for Mashpee to lower the rate it will pay for energy in the years to come.
Mashpee was designated as a Green Community by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs in May and pledged at that time to pursue environmentally friendly practices.
“We felt this was all part of our designation and our efforts to improve and contribute,” Town Manager Joyce Mason said.
The 334-kilowatt solar project will be installed on the roofs of town hall, the senior center and Mashpee High School, energy committee member and Mashpee GIS Administrator Tom Mayo said.
The photovoltaic cells should offset 25 percent to 30 percent of the energy bill at the high school – the town’s biggest energy user, he said.
“The main goal is to assist the town with its energy costs,” he said.
Rather than buying the solar panels, the town contracted with a third party, Mason said.
Borrego Solar Systems will pay $1.9 million to install the panels and will maintain them for 10 years, Mayo said. The town will purchase the energy generated by the panels in the form of “solar renewable energy credits” at a flat rate of 15 cents per kilowatt-hour, he said. That is a savings of one to two cents per kilowatt-hour over what the town pays for traditional energy.
At the end of 10 years, Mashpee must buy the solar panels, Mayo said, but because of a stipulation in the contract between the town and Borrego, the $190,000 cost will be paid off by that time.
Borrego initially offered Mashpee the chance to buy energy at 12 cents per kilowatt-hour, Mayo said. But because the town advertised to bidders they were looking to purchase energy for 15 cents, it had to conform to that number instead.
Borrego agreed to put the additional 3 cents toward the town’s future cost of taking over the project, “so we won’t have to put any money out either initially or when it comes time to actually purchase the system,” Mayo said.
Construction will begin in late June, he said.
To receive the Green Community designation, Mashpee adopted an appendix to the state building code that applies stringent energy-efficiency requirements to new residences and many new commercial buildings, as well as additions and renovations to current structures.
While many other Cape towns are pursuing wind-energy projects, Mashpee officials chose solar because there’s less opposition to those projects.
“This is clearly the best avenue to move on now,” Mayo said. “The wind industry seems to be in a little bit of a disarray right now, so right now we’re focusing on solar.”
The town has two 30-foot “wind spires” in Heritage Park that power the adjacent Mashpee Welcome Center but has not pursued larger turbines.
An added benefit of solar panels is they require only annual cleaning and inspection to maintain, Borrego Solar project developer Joe Harrison said.
Hopkinton, another state-designated Green Community, is also using Borrego Solar to install panels on several town buildings, Harrison said.
On the same day selectmen approved the contract with Borrego Solar, town officials began planning for another, larger solar project they hope to install at the town’s landfill, Mayo said.
The town has hired an engineer to streamline plans for a solar panel installation “about five times the size of the project we’re putting on the roofs,” he said.
The town would look to enter a third-party contract, similar to the one with Borrego, at the landfill, he said.
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