Novus Energy Development gets select board approval to proceed with solar project in Barre Town…
Article published Aug 11, 2013
Solar field could be producing next year
By David Delcore
BARRE TOWN — A Montpelier company’s plans to construct a solar field on town-owned land off Websterville Road have cleared a key hurdle. If state regulators and Green Mountain Power officials sign off on the project it could produce electricity by this time next year.
That would be good news for the town and its centralized elementary school, both of which would directly benefit if the 500-kilowatt solar array is constructed as proposed, say representatives of Novus Energy Development.
According to Novus’ latest estimates, the town and the school would save a combined $311,000 in energy costs over the next 20 years if the solar field is developed under the state’s Solar Net Metering Program.
Novus would also pay the town $141,750 over 20 years to lease the 3.5 acres of land needed for the solar field, as well as a yet-to-be-determined amount in property taxes.
Novus is now on the clock after the Select Board recently agreed to a lease option that put the company in a position to pursue approval for the project from the state Public Service Board and an “interconnection agreement” with GMP.
The option gives Novus until next July to navigate the regulatory process, though Louis Bravakis, the company’s chief executive officer, has indicated it shouldn’t take that long.
Now that Novus Energy can demonstrate control of the land, Bravakis predicted that obtaining the necessary approvals should be a six-month proposition.
Barring any unforeseen developments, he said the company should be in a position to start construction next spring.
The board approved the lease option after confirming that the proposed solar field could be constructed on the town-owned land without disrupting still-evolving plans to consolidate the town’s public works operations at that site in the future.
If Novus Energy is unable to obtain the permissions it needs, the option will expire and the only loss to the town would be the mix of cost savings and new revenue that would be produced — along with a projected 750,000 kilowatt hours of electricity a year — by the proposed solar array.
According to estimates prepared by Novus Energy, the town can expect to save just over $107,000 in energy costs over the 20-year life of the proposed lease, while the savings to the school district would be about $204,000.
The town’s savings would be $4,875 a year in the first 10 years, before ticking up to an estimated $5,827 in each of the last 10 years.
The savings for the school would be $11,659 a year over the first 10 years and drop to $8,781 a year in the back half of the agreement.
Those figures amount to 10 percent of the credit the town and school would receive from GMP under the net metering law. Novus Energy would be paid the remaining 90 percent in exchange for developing and maintaining the solar field.
The annual lease payment for using the town’s land would be $7,000 in the first 10 years and increase to $7,150 in the final 10 years.
The town would have the option to purchase the proposed solar field after the 20-year lease expires, or could opt to extend the agreement for another five years.