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Williamstown Town Manager Peter Fohlin addresses the Board of Selectmen on Monday.

Pittsfield lawyer Harris Aaronson represents the prospective new owners of the 1896 House on Cold Spring Road before the Board of Selectmen.

Williamstown Looking at Solar Panels, Municipal Partners

By Stephen Dravis
iBerkshires Staff
03:06AM / Tuesday, August 12, 2014
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The three members of the Selectmen present were updated to the town's search for a solar project.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The town is entering negotiations with California-based SolarCity to install photovoltaic panels on Williamstown's capped landfill.
 
Annual town meeting approved such a plan in May, and on Monday, Town Manager Peter Fohlin told the Board of Selectmen what progress had been made.
 
Fohlin expressed confidence that SolarCity and its three partners — Brightfields LLC, Advanced Solar Products and Weston & Sampson — are capable to completing and managing the project that would produce an estimated 2.1 million kilowatt/hours of annual electric production.
 
Fohlin credited Beth Greenblatt of Beacon Integrated Solutions with helping to guide the town through the process of issuing a request for proposals and evaluating the responses. Greenblatt was hired by the town using a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources.
 
The town has been looking to develop the capped landfill for more than three years and only now has been able to find a company it feels confident working with, Fohlin said.
 
"In the beginning, we were approached by pretenders and wannabes who said they were smart enough to learn how to do it and wanted to learn on our project," Fohlin said.
 
Greenblatt educated Fohlin and other town officials about the intricacies of solar production to the point where the officials were confident sitting down with SolarCity and two other finalists chosen from among 10 proposals received, Fohlin said.
 
"Beth Greenblatt was the only person who was able to sit on a conference call with all three of us, explain solar renewable energy credits, net metering, behind the meter, in front of the meter, electric utility pricing ... and I understood everything she said along the way," Fohlin said. "And If i didn't, I could ask a simple question, and she gave a simple answer."
 
If the project ends up producing what SolarCity has projected, the town will buy a portion of the renewable energy credits SolarCity will receive when it sells the power on the grid. Currently, SolarCity receives 16.9 cents per kilowatt/hour from National Grid, Fohlin said; the town will buy those credits for 6.75 cents apiece — giving SolarCity a profit of 6.75 cents per kw/hour and the town a profit of just more than 10 cents per kw/hour.
 
"Over the anticipated 20-year term of the contract, we project [paying] $1,558,000 for $3,786,000 in credits," Fohlin said.
Not all of that $2,198,000 difference would accrue to the Town of Williamstown. It can only apply the credits against power it uses — currently about 1.2 million kw/hours, or 900,000 kw/hours less than the panels would produce.
 
The town will seek partners to use up the remaining credits, Fohlin told the board.
 
The most logical potential partner is the Williamstown Fire District, a separate governmental entity with all the same taxpayers as the town. Such a partnership would realize 100 percent recovery of the savings by Williamstown taxpayers. Fohlin said it is appropriate to start talking to the Prudential Committee, which oversees the district, about such a partnership.
 
Another potential partner is Mount Greylock Regional School, which is funded by its two member towns, Williamstown and Lanesborough. In that scenario, residents in each member town would realize part of the savings.
 
Fohlin said one of the first steps in the negotiations with SolarCity and its partners will be finalizing exactly how much of the approximately 18-acre parcel is developable with solar panels. Public Works Director Timothy Kaiser told the board on Monday that initial surveys show about three acres of the parcel is usable.
 
In other business on Monday evening, the Selectmen, sitting as the town's liquor licensing authority, approved the transfer of the license at the '6 House Pub from Richmore Inc. to Miczaja Enterprises, pending the finalizing of financing for the purchase.
 
Anne Singleton of the Williamstown Community Chest discusses the group's Fun Run/Walk, scheduled for September.
Miczaja principals Michael and Carrie Oring appeared before the board to describe their efforts to purchase the entire 1896 House property, which includes the pub and restaurant on Cold Spring Road.
 
Current owners Sue Morelle and Denise Richer are guiding the Orings, who are first-time hotel owners looking for a change in lifestyle, Michael Oring explained. Morelle and Richer attended Monday evening's meeting to support the Orings.
 
He said the couple looked from Florida to Vermont to find an appropriate property but fell in love with Williamstown, where they have been living for about a month in an apartment.
 
"We would have stayed at the 1896 House, but the good news is they're booked," Oring said.
 
The three Selectmen in attendance on Monday also made several appointments to town committees and OK'd a few events in town over the next couple of months.
 
Keith Davis and Jack Nogueira were appointed as alternates to the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Kathleen Thompson was appointed to the Sign Commission for a term ending June 30, 2015.
The Ballou Lane Block Party was approved for a road closure between 4 and 7 p.m. on Aug. 24.
The Williamstown Community Chest was approved for its annual Fun Run/Walk on Sept. 13 at 10 a.m.
And the board gave its blessing to the Multiple Sclerosis Hike and Bike Route, which will pass through South Williamstown on Sept. 20.

Tags: municipal solar,   solar array,   solar project,   

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