EASTHAM — Eastham could have a surplus of energy should four new solar projects move forward.
“The town of Eastham, with the completion of these projects — if they were to go through — will generate more solar energy than we have consumption,” Rich Bienvenue, the assistant town administrator and finance director, told the select board at their Feb. 22 meeting, where he presented an update on potential solar projects.
The town has submitted the projects to the Cape & Vineyard Electric Cooperative (CVEC) as part of the cooperative’s “Round 6” of soliciting municipal projects through a competitive bid process.
The proposals include a town hall municipal campus micro-grid that, if developed, would use a combination of rooftop and solar canopy at the town hall and public safety complex.
“As a micro-grid project, the solar components are integrated and connected to the grid via one Eversource interconnection,” Bienvenue wrote in a memo on the projects.
Additionally, the type of project proposed for the municipal campus would be attractive for a battery storage option, Bienvenue wrote. “In this scenario,” his memo continued, “we would look for a proposal (and the associated cost) to utilize our micro-grid for battery storage to allow our facilities to ‘island’ in the event of an extended power outage. The typical goal in this scenario is to provide self-sufficient energy storage for up to 10 days.”
The town hall project would be the most cost-effective and financially attractive as a “behind the meter” initiative that would allow the town to directly offset its energy consumption, Bienvenue explained in his memo. “Completion of this project would result in the town generating solar generation offsets approximately equal to its energy consumption,” he wrote.
The potential solar projects also include canopies at the DPW parking area and transfer station, and a ground mount system on about three to five acres of land in North Eastham in an area between the Eversource easement for power lines and the District G Well Site. All three of those projects would be “contemplated as a ‘cash-out’ or lease project,” Bienvenue wrote.
A solar canopy at the transfer station would provide the added benefit of protecting patrons from the elements, noted Bienvenue.
Initially proposed as a two-megawatt system requiring approximately 10 acres, the North Eastham site was reduced to upwards of a one-megawatt system using about three to five acres after board members expressed concern at a Jan. 25 presentation over clearing so much forested land.
“That’s still a lot of trees,” said board vice chair Aimee Eckman at the January meeting.
After site visits by some board members, the proposed site was reduced and moved from the east side of the wellhouse to the west side, more parallel to the Eversource easement along the power lines.
“It still requires some cutting of trees, but the trees are a little thinner on the west side of the wellhouse,” Bienvenue told the board at its Feb. 22 meeting. He noted the town did not have to accept any proposals from developers “if we don’t like what the proposals are asking us to do.”
A 22-percent solar federal tax credit is available to developers through Dec. 31, 2021, after which it decreases to 10 percent in 2022.