WELLFLEET — The array of 2,400 solar panels atop the transfer station’s landfill is ready to start making electricity. But the town is awaiting clearance from the Mass. Land Court before the final connection to the grid can be completed.
Construction of the 1.2-megawatt installation was completed in October 2019, nearly five months ago. The timeline on the energy committee’s website suggests that the array will begin commercial operation in the first quarter of 2020. But it will likely be at least four more months before the panels start supplying electric power.
Energy committee chair Dick Elkin said that when the town first took over the parcel of land by eminent domain, about 15 years ago, it neglected to register the change in title. Now the final stages of the solar installation await the transfer of the title to the town in court.
Elkin said that the array will generate up to 4,700 kilowatt hours per day in the summer that will be directed into the power grid, and that the town will receive about 8 cents per kilowatt hour. So one long, sunny day in the summer would generate up to 4,700 kWh, that is, up to $375 each day.
Elkin said that in winter the electricity production is about one-third of that in summer — about $125 per day.
The town isn’t paying anything for the solar installation besides its own legal fees. It contracted with Ameresco, a renewable energy company based in Framingham, to construct the array. Ameresco makes money by selling the electricity to Eversource and sharing the proceeds with the town.
Town Administrator Dan Hoort wrote in an email to the Independent that the town hopes “the Land Court issue will be settled within a couple of weeks.”
Elkin said the current electrical lines at the transfer station are rated at about 700 kilowatts, and need to be upgraded. “They need to install some equipment on telephone poles — transformers that take power from the grid and put it out on the line that runs down Coles Neck Road,” Elkin said.
Once the title is transferred, Eversource will install three utility poles with proper safety equipment to carry the power generated by the panels. Eversource is charging somewhere between $100,000 and $200,000 for this upgrade, Elkin said, adding that Ameresco wasn’t “unusually upset” by the price.
Ameresco vice president of marketing and communications Leila Dillon said this week that the mechanical construction is complete.
“All of the infrastructure on our end is up and in good shape,” she said. “Once the title is out of Land Court, the final stages should take three to four months. It’s a little dependent on Eversource’s timeline.”
After Eversource finishes its installation, Ameresco will have to complete safety testing, town paperwork, and meter installation.
The title error was discovered when Eversource reviewed the parcel. Energy committee member David Mead-Fox explained that the title issue will not compromise the project.
“It’s just paperwork — it won’t be a ‘no,’ it’s just a matter of when,” he said. He added, however, that “the Land Court is known for taking a long time to reach decisions.”