The town of Barnstable will have the largest solar array in New England, after a vote last week by the Barnstable Town Council.
Construction is set to begin by the end of this year with completion by the end of 2012, according to Richard Elrick, Barnstable Energy Coordinator.
American Capital Energy of North Chelmsford will construct the array.
By unanimous approval, the town council authorized the town manager to sign an agreement for the construction and operation of a 14,000-panel, 4-megawatt solar array of ground-mounted photovoltaic panels on 17 acres at Barnstable’s capped landfill in Marstons Mills.
Generating about 5 million kilowatt hours annually, the facility is a public/private partnership between Cape and Vineyard Electric Cooperative (CVEC) and the Town of Barnstable.
CVEC’s mission is to work with the Cape Light Compact to create renewable energy opportunities for the Cape and Islands.
CVEC is leasing the land at the landfill from the town and paying for the facility.
The town will get the electricity generated at a bargain price.Together with the solar array and wind turbines at the Barnstable Water Pollution Control Facility, the town’s municipal buildings will have fifty percent of their power generated through renewable energy, once the project is online.
The financial benefit to the Town of Barnstable is that the facility will generate enough energy to save the town $250,000 to $300,000 per year in electricity costs on town-owned buildings. The total savings over 20 years is $5 million.
The contract had been the subject of multiple meetings this spring by a council subcommittee and two workshop sessions by the full council.
The subcommittee that worked on the plan was able to negotiate improved terms for the Town of Barnstable, and Town Councilor James H. Crocker Jr. of Osterville was credited for pushing for some of the improved terms.
Among those was the elimination of a 10 percent commission that was to go to CVEC annually.The lease also comes with certain guarantees.
For instance, the price of the electricity generated will be fixed at 6.09 cents per kilowatt over the life of the lease, as opposed to 8 cents charged by NStar today, with the rate rising annually.
While the solar array is expected to generate 5 million kilowatt hours annually, the town is guaranteed 4 million kilowatts that will be made available even in the case of the system faltering.
There is also a clause in the contract about decommissioning the array.
The town has the first right to purchase the array after 20 years.
Now that the CVEC deal has been completed, Mr. Elrick said he is looking to other energy projects in the town.
Barnstable High School already has a roof-mounted solar array, but Mr. Elrick said there is room on the roof to double the number of photovoltaic panels.
Roof-mounted arrays could also go on the middle school, West Villages Elementary School, the senior center and the airport, he said.
As for ground-mounted arrays, Mr. Elrick said possible locations include land northwest of the runways at the airport, land owned by the Hyannis Water Department, and even unused land at Mosswood Cemetery in Cotuit