Cohasset’s Alternative Energy Committee has been hard at work to bring solar power to town. But have they paid equal attention to other alternative energy sources?
A question raised by selectman Martha Gjesteby during a recent presentation by the Alternative Energy Committee has been answered in a letter to the editor (see Your View commentary on page 10).
Last week, the AEC went before the Board of Selectmen and presented plans to bring solar energy to Cohasset by installing an array on the Middle-High School roof and the town’s capped landfill on 81-91 Cedar Street. The committee shared a Power Point presentation that showcased their work of the past six months, requested the hiring of special counsel to assist with the RFP (request for proposals) process, and outlined potential costs. Many of the costs, such as the need to upgrade the 10-year-old school roof to allow for an array, are unknown, according to the committee.
Gjesteby wanted to know if the committee had looked into other alternative energies, such as hydro or wind, and was told no; she then wanted to know why not. Capital Budget Committee member Jack Keniley, in the audience, said that Gjesteby had made a good point. Gjesteby said after the meeting that she was dissatisfied with the AEC members’ answers at the meeting.
AEC co-chair Tanya Bodell said she and her fellow committee members were unable to tackle all of the questions during their brief presentation and did not have all the information up front. However, Bodell took to writing her own commentary for the Mariner, in which she explains why the committee is looking into solar power, and why now, over options like hydro or wind.
Bodell further explained in a phone call that the AEC is trying to find alternative energy projects that are “technically, economically and socially feasible.”
Solar, explained Bodell, is one of the few types of alternative energy that meets all three of these criteria. Hydro is too expensive, she said, while wind is too politically contentious. Cohasset’s AEC tried to bring a wind turbine to town for over five years and ultimately failed to do so, Bodell said.
“I think the AEC did an incredible job before,” she said. “There were just forces outside of their control that prevented wind from being realized.”
Bodell explained that current state and federal incentives, along with low wholesale prices for electricity, make solar an economically attractive energy option for towns.
“Solar makes the most sense and we’re going to pursue it,” Bodell said. “If it turns out it doesn’t make sense we’re going to make a decision, but it will be an informed decision.”
The selectmen voted 4-1 to allow the AEC to hire special counsel to assist on the RFP to bid for a solar energy vendor; Gjesteby was the dissenting vote. In a phone call to the Mariner, she explained that she is against the committee getting private counsel when she believes Town Counsel could be utilized.
“I thought we have people in the [town’s] law firm that could handle it,” said Gjesteby. “They lean towards environmental [law].”
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