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Lenox Seeking Energy Group Buy; Wins Grant For Solar Project

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff
11:49PM / Wednesday, September 03, 2014
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The Board of Selectmen authorized Town Manager Christopher Ketchen to sign an agreement for residential power rates.
LENOX, Mass. — The town will be seeking group power purchases for residents.
 
Town meeting authorized the board to seek out firms to lock in rates for residential power in 2012. It took more than two years, but the state has authorized that aggregation plan and Colonial Power Group has been brought on to negotiate a bulk-purchase rate for Lenox and a dozen other towns.
 
"We, along with a dozen towns in Berkshire County, are ready to accept bids," Town Manager Christopher Ketchen said on Wednesday.
 
The Board of Selectmen gave Ketchen the approval to sign into whatever agreement is procured — or not at all. Ketchen said if the bid isn't competitive, the town is under no obligation to sign on. Once the locked-in residential rates are agreed to, residents have the option of signing onto that agreement.
 
"This is not something town residents are required to do. It is an opportunity that is being provided to them," said Chairman Channing Gibson.
 
Also related to power, Selectman Ken Fowler said the town has been awarded a grant to help move along the previously stalled solar project. Lenox has joined with Lee to develop photovoltaic arrays on five properties — two in Lenox and three in Lee. One contract was awarded but the company later went bankrupt.
 
But the project isn't dead. Fowler said the grant will hire a professional to vet the contractors seeking to take on the job.
 
"We have been awarded a $20,000 grant to hire an owner's agent to lead our progress in vetting a new solar contractor," he said. "This is a big deal"
 
The Selectmen, however, did express some discomfort with the way the last project unfolded as well as the chosen site of the waste-water treatment center. They hope to alleviate those concerns this time.
 
"I want a lot more information this time," said Selectman David Roche.
 
Foresight Land Services has already been contracted by the town to look at the landfill and identify the needs for a solar project, according to Ketchen.
 
But the solar project isn't the only collaboration with Lee. Lenox, Lee and Richmond are now seeking a state Community Innovation Challenge Grant aimed to help the schools share services.
 
"It is not clear what some of those shared services are going to be, the opportunity for us is to apply for grant funding for implementation," Ketchen said.
 
According to Fowler, "this is the step we've been looking for." Town officials have previously met with Lee officials but sharing services hadn't really taken off, Fowler said.
 
"If it doesn't start here, where does it?" he asked.
 
Also on Wednesday, the Selectmen approved continuing the Google ad campaign eyed to promote tourism in town. The $10,000 expenditure will hire Studio Two to again run two ad campaigns through Google.
 
"It works out great for us," said Selectman Ed Lane.
 
Gibson added that Kevin Sprague, who heads the effort, "isn't going to waste our money if for some reasons it isn't working." 

Tags: electrical aggregation,   municipal solar,   solar project,   

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