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Town opts out of photovoltaic solar facility

Date: 3/1/2011

Feb. 28, 2011

By Chris Maza

Reminder Assistant Editor

LONGMEADOW — The town of Longmeadow will not be the newest site for a photovoltaic solar electricity generating facility.

Selectman Mark Gold said he had to "reluctantly announce" that the task force he spearheaded found no viable options among the bids submitted in response to the town's request for proposal (RFP).

"The bottom line is none of the bids, we believe, offer positive benefits to the town," Gold said. "Therefore, we recommend the town not to proceed at this time."

Longmeadow hoped to be able to properly cap and use the town's old landfill, which was closed in 1979, as the site for a large-scale solar array that would span four to six acres and produce two megawatts of power.

Ideally, the town was looking for a plan that would include a 25-year lease between the company operating the facility and a Power Purchase Agreement, which would allow the town to buy energy for its municipal buildings at a discounted rate.

Gold explained that the decision was made based on information gathered during the evaluation of the bids and through direct feedback from companies that did not bid.

There were four major factors that led to the decision.

First, the landfill is not currently ready to build and the revenue created by the array may not outweigh the town funds needed to make it ready.

Secondly, all of the bidders said it would not be possible to build an array on the site that would be able to create the two megawatts the town is hoping for.

In addition, the physical connection between the proposed facility and the Western Massachusetts Electric Company (WMECO) grid is too far away and adds approximately $500,000 to the cost of running the facility.

Finally, because the town buys its energy from Constellation Energy Group and not directly from WMECO, Longmeadow already receives a discounted rate of approximately 10 cents per kilowatt-hour (kwh), as opposed to most municipalities, which pay approximately 17 cents per kwh. Due to the existing discount, any additional savings would be marginal.

"We're extremely disappointed, but we did our due diligence and found that this is not the best thing for the town," Gold said, adding that while the process is suspended, the economics could change in the future, making a solar array a more viable option.

He also said there are other locations, such as conservation land, that would cut down on costs for the town and whatever company is interested in developing the array, but there is currently no discussion regarding those options.

Any development of conservation land would require an act of the state legislature, he added.

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