Mashpee Seeks Clarity on Solar Project

MASHPEE –A solar company official presented a plan for developing a parcel of land in Mashpee at a recent select board meeting but was met with skepticism concerning the potential deal’s finances.

Daniel Serber, Director of Land Development for the Boston-based NextGrid, gave a remote presentation about plans to install a 9-megawatt solar overlay field with battery storage on the parcel of land at 420 Nathan Ellis Highway, which is roughly 38 acres partially zoned for both commercial and residential uses.

Serber went on to break down the financial components of the deal but the board had a number of questions for him. 

According to Serber, the town could tax NextGrid traditionally or make a payment in lieu of taxes, based off the amount of megawatts produced by solar project over its 20-year term.   

Serber said that the deal would include NextGrid donating the parcel to Mashpee with a reversion clause, then NextGrid would pay the town rent for developing the land.

Serber projected Mashpee would make roughly $3.5 million in revenue between NextGrid’s payments and rent. He added that after the project term, NextGrid would have the option to reacquire the land from the town for another $2 million.

Select board Clerk Andrew Gottlieb said the revenue from property taxes over 20 years from the current owners may rival NextGrid’s offer if the solar company chose not to buy the land back at the end of term.

Gottlieb then repeatedly asked Serber to clarify why NextGrid would need to be paying taxes or the payments in lieu of taxes on a parcel of land they no longer owned if the town would be renting the parcel to them.

“So we can adjust the payment of lieu of taxes to include underlying land, what you guys would potentially be missing out on,” Serber replied.  

“So this isn’t your best offer, it’s just your first,” Gottlieb said.

Although Serber said the parcel is historically a sandpit which is ideal for solar projects, Gottlieb said much of the land NextGrid is planning to develop is off the existing remaining sandpit.

“The whole idea of cutting down trees to put up solar strikes me as stupid when there’s a ton of disturbed hard space already in this town that would be better suited for solar and it’s all flat, roofs and parking lots,” Gottlieb said.

With the board being two weeks away from making a recommendation on the land, the board clerk added he would currently not approve a deal given the unclear financial breakdowns.

The board asked Serber to return for the March 21st meeting with a more comprehensive report on the numbers.

Gottlieb then pushed for more clarification on after-contract obligations and limitations should NextGrid buy the land back after the term to be clear on what they would be able to do with the property in the future.

Vice-Chair David Weeden asked about an environmental assessment of the land and the board agreed that would need to be done if the town were to acquire the parcel.

By Brian Engles, NewsCenter

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