WISCASSET, Maine — The Wiscasset Sun Cats submitted a petition with 140 signatures in July asking Wiscasset to look into installing solar panels on the town’s municipal buildings. After hearing a presentation from ReVision Energy Director of Finance Steve Hinchman on Tuesday, Nov. 17, the Wiscasset Board of Selectmen must now decide whether to bring a proposal to go solar to voters at the annual June town meeting.
Hinchman outlined the cost and savings projections for the town if it entered into a power-purchase agreement with ReVision Energy for a solar installation on the town office and public works buildings. Through a seven-year power-purchase agreement, ReVision Energy would install, maintain, and operate a 62-kilowatt solar electrical system.
Wiscasset would purchase the energy produced from the system from ReVision Energy for roughly the same price it currently pays to Central Maine Power Co. for six years. On the first day of the seventh year, Wiscasset would have the option to purchase the installation from ReVision Energy and become its own energy producer and supplier.
The system is estimated to cost $93,352 year seven, according to Hinchman. The energy payments to ReVision over the previous six years would be directed to reduce the cost of the solar array, which has an estimated cost of $192,344.
With federal energy tax credits for investments in solar energy set to expire Dec. 31, 2016, it is crunch time for ReVision Energy to complete projects, Hinchman said. According to Hinchman, when the federal government created the tax credit, municipalities, schools, and nonprofit organizations were excluded.
The power-purchase agreement was a financing method designed to take advantage of the tax credit and enable the excluded organizations to participate in the renewable energy movement. Through a power-purchase agreement, a for-profit organization would own, operate, and maintain a solar installation for an organization excluded from the tax credit, with the ability for the organization to eventually purchase the installation.
There is no requirement for Wiscasset to purchase the installation, Hinchman said, and the town could continue to purchase its energy from ReVision Energy for a nominal savings for a 20-year period with the option to extend the arrangement for two five-year periods.
The town would see the most significant savings from solar energy, however, if it chose to purchase the installation. The town could see energy savings of $72,037 over 20 years. Over 40 years, the town could see savings as large as $563,208, according to ReVision Energy’s proposal.
The project would enable Wiscasset to reduce its carbon emissions by 40 tons a year, according to the proposal. The solar array would also raise Wiscasset’s public profile as a municipality at the forefront of the renewable energy movement, Sun Cats organizer and petition circulator Marty Fox said.
The proposal would require voter approval and selectmen must now decide if it will be included on the warrant for the 2016 annual town meeting. With ReVision Energy’s services in high demand, the company expects to sell out of its ability to install solar arrays for 2016 by June or July of that year, Hinchman said.
Whether solar installations on Wiscasset’s town office and public works buildings will be among the projects ReVision Energy completes remains to be seen.