Phase two of the Falmouth Economic Development and Industrial Corporation solar array is moving forward after a near-two-year delay.
Phase two will add an additional two megawatts to the landfill site off of Thomas B. Landers Road, half the capacity of phase one. Citizens Energy Corporation, a solar developer, completed the first phase of the landfill solar array in April 2017.
James E. Fox led the implementation of the first phase of the project while he was a member of the EDIC. He spoke before the current members of the EDIC on Tuesday, April 9, after he was contacted by Citizens Energy. “The good news is that phase two is coming together,” he said.
Citizens Energy calculated phase two’s total benefits for the town. The lease, payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT), and power purchase agreement will generate $87,966 in revenue in the first year. That number will slightly increase every year.
The new phase will generate less revenue for the town than phase one. Emma Azadan, Director of Solar Development at Citizens Energy Corporation, explained over the phone that the decreased revenue is due to the size of the second phase and due to changes in state programs.
“The solar incentives in Massachusetts have really undergone some big changes in the past few years,” she said.
The Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) program replaced the Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SREC) program in 2017. SMART is a declining block compensation mechanism which reduces the overall compensation for solar projects, in favor of ensuring long-term project revenue. SMART uses an Alternative On-Bill Crediting Mechanism (AOBCM) for metering as opposed to net metering under SREC. The new program is part of the reason that phase two is projected to generate $87,966 in the first year of operation while phase one of the solar array generated $633,757 during its first year.
Phase two will have a philanthropic element. Citizen’s Energy will contribute 50 percent of generated revenue from the landfill solar array to low-income benefit programs. Of that 50 percent, half of it will go toward low-income Falmouth residents. Ms. Azadan projected that about $37,500 would be used toward programs that financially benefit residents eligible for the R-2 rate from Eversource.
Citizens Energy needs a new interconnection agreement with Eversource to add additional megawatts to the system, Ms. Azadan explained. Eversource spent about two years studying power trading and assessing whether parts of the line would need to be upgraded to account for the additional energy, said Ms. Azadan.
Citizens Energy has asked the town to remove the wind turbines from the interconnection queue. They say the process will help them move forward with phase two.
There is no consensus on how the wind turbines will impact the additional solar panels.
The wind turbines are not operational, but they remain a part of the interconnection queue. The Falmouth Zoning Board of Appeals issued a cease-and-desist order in 2015, effectively shutting down Wind Turbine 1. Wind Turbine 2 remained operational until June 2017, when a Barnstable County Superior Judge ruled that the turbines were a nuisance. Despite a January vote by the board of selectmen that ensured they would never be operational in Falmouth again, the electric connection has not been touched, town manager Julian M. Suso confirmed.
If the turbines are removed from the queue, it could save Citizens Energy and Eversource from making costly upgrades to the existing electrical network, Ms. Azadan explained. Until they are “unplugged,” Eversource considers them to be part of the network, she said.
“Eversource is making solar design around the huge load that Falmouth could possibly put back in at those locations,” Mr. Fox told the EDIC.
The town manager cautioned that removing the turbines from the interconnection queue was not as simple as just “unplugging” them. As ordered by the board of selectmen, the town is proceeding through a procurement process for the turbines, Mr. Suso explained. “We have a responsibility to the taxpayers and we need to be very careful that we do not take an action that compromises the disposition of the turbines,” Mr. Suso said. He stated that, based on conversations he’d had with Eversource, Citizens Energy could still get phase two operational without touching the turbines.
Ms. Azadan noted that the project is moving forward despite concerns over the queue. The next steps include financing and working out an agreement with the town.
“Our work with Citizens Energy and the EDIC is something we appreciate and value,” Mr. Suso said.
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