Voters will decide whether the town should buy power generated by out-of-town alternative energy projects, and whether to build a solar facility near Wareham’s sewer plant, when Town Meeting commences next week.
The requests from the out-of-town facilities are in two separate articles on the fall Town Meeting warrant. Two different companies are seeking “net-metering power purchase agreements” with the town. That is, the companies are asking the town to commit to buying power.
Neither project is constructed. In advance of construction, companies are seeking commitments from customers.
Article 16 is a request to grant the Board of Selectmen permission to negotiate a net-metering power purchasing agreement with Future Generation Wind LLC, which plans to build four wind turbines at 810 Head of the Bay Road in Buzzards Bay.
A wind turbine can only generate power when there is wind to power it. When there isn’t enough wind to power the turbine, the customer who owns the turbine draws power from the grid.
When the turbine generates more power than the facility it powers can use, the customer must have a place for it to go. That’s where the Town of Wareham comes in.
Wareham gets energy credits, which would allow the town to get back a certain percentage of each dollar paid to NStar. It is unclear how much the town would get back.
The Town of Marion entered into a 20-year net-metering purchase agreement with Future Generation Wind in August.
Voters have a similar opportunity with a solar facility planned in Plymouth. If voters approve article 17, Wareham would serve as the “host customer” for Sage Stone’s solar facility.
Sage Stone would trade solar electricity to NStar in exchange for “net-metering credits.” These credits could be used toward the town’s electric bill.
In dollars and cents, this means that for the first five years of the solar project, Wareham would pay 90 cents on the dollar for electricity, or 10% less than the town would pay to NStar without the credits.
For the remaining 20 years of the 25-year contract, Wareham would pay 80 cents on the dollar, or 20 percent less than the town would pay to NStar without the credits.
According to Richard Kleiman, Director of Solar Energy for Sage Stone LLC, there isn’t really a downside to his company’s agreement.
“Our agreement protects the town from downside risk. If the town were to develop its own solar project, it would take on all the risk associated with development, financing, [and] price fluctuations,” he said.
In a presentation to Selectmen, Kleiman pointed out that solar facilities are generally better received by the public than wind facilities. He said that the Future Generation project is being appealed by abutters.
“The Town of Wareham would receive over $10 million in new revenue from the project and enable a significant renewable energy project, but incur none of the risk of developing, owning and operating such a project,” said Kleiman.
According to Kleiman, “it’s critical to the project to have a municipal partner to receive the net metering credits. While we have discussed the opportunity with other towns in your area, our preference is to work with Wareham. … town officials have been very receptive to the idea.”
Town Meeting voters will also weigh in on whether they want a renewable energy facility here in town.
Water Pollution Control Facility Director Guy Campinha has submitted a Town Meeting article that asks voters to allow the Selectmen/Sewer Commissioners to negotiate the lease of seven acres of property adjacent to the sewer treatment plant for the construction of a solar field.
Campinha’s proposal would allow the town to lease the land to a company that would be responsible for designing, building, and maintaining a solar field. Campinha is looking for a company that already has financing in place for such a project.
The land was formerly used as a landfill for sludge from the plant. Campinha has already gotten permission from the state Department of Environmental Protection to use the location for a solar field.
The solar field would provide electricity to the treatment plant, which has an electric bill of approximately $485,000 per year, according to Campinha. The projected savings for the first year the solar field is operational is $115,591.
Campinha says that building a renewable energy facility in town would better benefit Wareham financially than a net-metering purchasing agreement.
“They’re going to give us a percentage” of the net-metering credits, Campinha noted. “Here, we’re going to get all of it.”
The land on which the solar field would be built is a “bowl,” so it would not be visible to neighbors, Campinha said, noting that the panels would face south, directing any glare away from abutters.
Town Meeting begins on Monday, October 22, at 7 p.m. in the Wareham High School auditorium.