Expansion Proposed for Falmouth Solar Array

FALMOUTH – The Falmouth Economic Development and Industrial Corporation updated selectmen recently on plans for the second phase of solar photovoltaic development on the town’s capped landfill.

The proposal calls for additional solar panels to be installed at the site.

EDIC Executive Director Mike DiGiano asked the board to authorize a new request for proposals to develop the second phase.

In 2017, the first solar panels at the landfill became operational, generating 4.3 megawatts of power and since July of that year the town has collected $1.2 million in net revenue from the project.

It is estimated that over the next 20 years, the solar array will generated about $13 million for the town.

According to DiGiano, the array will generate an additional two megawatts when the second phase of work is completed.

An additional $1.4 million for the town is also expected over the life of the project.

DiGiano said that work on the second phase was delayed because of the time it took the developer of the project’s first phase, Citizens Energy, to get an interconnection agreement with Eversource.

“Phase two was delayed because of the time it took for Citizens to get an interconnection agreement with Eversource,” DiGiano said.

“Their development agreement with the EDIC ran out of time because of that delay in getting the interconnecting agreement and in September of 2019 the Inspector General’s office advised the town counsel and the EDIC that we would have to re-bid phase two.”  

DiGiano and the EDIC want developers to submit bids on phase two by March 3rd in hopes of selecting a developer by March 18th.

“We are scheduled to re-advertise this week with bids due March 3rd and we feel that we could have a developer selected by March 18th,” DiGiano said.

While he admitted that the timetable was aggressive, DiGiano said that he thought that was needed to ensure the project can come online and qualify for federal tax credits.

Currently, the intergovernmental agreement between the EDIC and the town allows for up to six megawatts of power to be generated through the array.

The EDIC originally wanted to install all six megawatts in phase one, however the town would only allow for four megawatts, according to Planning Board Chairman Jim Fox.

That was because the town’s two municipal wind turbines were expected to generate another four megawatts, but have since been decommissioned.

While tax credits are expected to decline in phase two, Fox said the array still saves the town a lot of money and offsets the money lost through the wind turbine.

Fox added that the town considered other uses for the landfill, but all other proposals came with associated development costs to the town.

While the town paid $100,000 for some initial engineering work to bring the solar array to the property, the money was paid back by the developer.

The array also brings the town rent revenue.

Phase one generated about $70,000 a year in rent, and the second phase is expected to generate and additional $35,000 a year.

Under the current agreement, the EDIC nets all of the rent from the solar array over its first three years of operation, after year three the agreement calls for rent to be split 50-50 between the EDIC and the town.

The EDIC asked at the meeting if selectmen would revise the agreement to allow the organization to keep all of the rent revenue, roughly $100,000 a year, to fund future projects.

The board was not receptive to the idea as the town has only just begun to receive revenue from the project.

Town Manager Julian Suso was not in favor of a revised agreement and selectmen Sam Patterson and Doug Jones said the EDIC’s mission was to create more jobs for Falmouth, but has yet to do that.

Selectmen Susan Moran, who is also a member of the EDIC, said the organization is not an employer, but it does try to fertilize opportunities and create attractions for people in Falmouth.

Fox defended the EDIC, saying he believes the corporation should be allowed to keep the rent.

While selectmen unanimously authorized the EDIC to issue the request for proposal, they said they want to follow up on possible agreement changes at future meetings.

About Luke Leitner

Luke Leitner grew up in Watertown Massachusetts and now lives in West Yarmouth on the Cape. He has been a part of the news team in the CapeCod.com News Center since the spring of 2019. He studied business communications at Western New England University.

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