Could the warming rays of the sun melt the Brewster wind turbine project?
We won’t know until November at the earliest but due to potentially renewable energy credits the board of selectmen decided in executive session Tuesday night to request proposals for a solar array on the site of the proposed twin 410-foot turbines. If the finances are more rosy for solar, the board might ditch the turbines and opt for solar.
“This is great news,” declared Mitch Relin, president of Brewster Citizens for Responsible Energy, an opponent of the turbine project. “It’s not definitive but all along we’ve had concerns about the plan for wind turbines. All along we’ve felt that solar was a much more people friendly way to do things, particularly near where people are, so we’d welcome that possibility.”
The current estimates for the turbines are that they’d return $3.6 million to the town over 20 years. However, Cape and Vineyard Electric Cooperative officials, after completing the contracts for the ground mounted solar array at the Brewster Transfer Station, contacted selectmen and suggested the financial incentives for solar might be more advantageous. CVEC has worked out the projected returns for the twin turbines, including cost of appeals etc.
“The contracts executed in July suggest better pricing per kilowatt hour for solar than wind,” CVEC clerk Maggie Downey reported. “That’s because under the Green Communities Act the values for Renewable Energy Certificates for wind are 2.5 cents per kilowatt hour. For solar, the Renewable Energy Certificates have a floor of 30 cents and a ceiling of 60 cents.”
Power suppliers have to carve out a solar component so the state has established a price for RECs for the next 10 years. While wind RECs rise and fall with the market, the solar credits are fixed within a range.
“Once we saw the results, I had an obligation to bring that to the town of Brewster,” Downey said.
So one turbine’s footprint could be replaced by a solar array and the other may never be built.
“There may be the possibility for the placement of solar array panels near where the proposed wind turbines were to be located. It may make more economic sense,” said chairman of the board of selectmen Peter Norton. “We want to keep our options open.”
As a result, the town and CVEC will put out a request for bids on a solar project Sept. 21, and await their return by Nov. 4. It is possible the bidder might want to locate the project elsewhere in town (from a list of suggested sites) but the location off Freeman’s Way has already been approved for renewable energy. At that point CVEC and Brewster will have to sift through the replies and work out the details.
“At this point we are considering a dual track of solar power with wind still on the table,” Norton said. “If solar is more beneficial than wind, we hope both proponents and opponents of wind turbines will support this. The initial indication is (solar) may generate more revenue.”
Town Administrator Charles Sumner agreed that was the case after a “cursory review.”
“That’ll be tested when we go out for the RFP (request for proposals) and bids,” he said. “That’s the beauty of this dual process. We can compare what we have.”
CVEC had voted to pursue an appeal to the state Department of Electric Utilities for an exemption from the local permitting process (the Brewster Planning Board failed to award the project a required special permit last spring) but that potential appeal is now on hold for the calendar year at least by which time CVEC will have an answer.
“I’m happy they are looking at options,” Relin said. “We’d need to see what the details are, what kind of clearing would be involved and all that and whether it would affect nearby residents. But I’m very happy at the prospect.”