AUGUSTA — Some city and school buildings could be partially heated and powered by the sun if city officials sign a deal with a renewable energy firm.

The solar panels and other equipment needed would be installed, maintained and owned by New Hampshire-based Revolution Energy.

In return, the city would agree to a long-term commitment to buy energy produced by the panels at a preset price.

City officials hope the unusual arrangement would reduce school and municipal energy costs while converting to a renewable source. Potential sites for the systems include City Center, Augusta Civic Center, Buker Community Center and the Cony High School/Capital Area Technical Center campus.

“It would be like they are a utility,” said Ralph St. Pierre, finance director and assistant city manager. “They produce the BTUs and we agree how much we’ll pay per BTU. It won’t replace the amount of fuel we use, but it will reduce it.”

For now, the city’s commitment would be an estimated $52,000 — the cost of having a firm do a feasibility study. The study is to include costs and potential savings compared to the primarily oil and electricity powered systems in place in those buildings now.

If the city has that engineering and analysis work done — and then does not agree to a long-term power purchase agreement — it would be on the hook for the $52,000.

But if the city agrees to a long-term installation and energy purchase contract, the $52,000 would be included within the contract terms, not due up front.

The systems could include rooftop or ground-mounted solar panels to produce electricity or heat water; exterior wall-mounted solar panels at the Cony/CATC campus for heating air; a biomass pellet boiler at Buker; or other systems.

“The idea is to employ multiple forms of technology,” said Mike Behrmann, of Revolution Energy. “Over the course of the contract, if we don’t produce the energy, you don’t pay the money. You’d still be connected to the grid. We’d produce electricity for you, hopefully at a lower per kilowatt price than you’re paying now.”

Behrmann said Revolution is a four-year-old firm that’s done seven similar installations. Its current contracts are typically around 10 years, he said.

When the contract expires, Augusta could buy the systems for fair market value or the company would remove them.

The company seeks tax credits and other ways to reduce project costs.

How much money the city could expect to save depends on which systems are installed, as well as the price of the current power and heat sources.

Company officials said the potential for savings will be part of what they’ll determine over the next month as they study the feasibility of various systems.

In Exeter, N.H., Revolution installed a large solar array that Behrmann said was the largest in the state at the time, plus a microturbine and two boilers, for an estimated savings, he said, of about $200,000 last year.

City councilors on Thursday will consider authorizing City Manager William Bridgeo to sign a contract with Revolution for the feasibility study that would obligate the city to pay about $52,000.

Councilors meet at 7 p.m. at Augusta City Center.

They are also scheduled to:

* hear an update on the Greater Augusta Utility District’s sewer and storm water project in the Bond Brook area;

* hold a public hearing and consider granting a tax increment financing, or TIF, tax break to the Kennebec Valley Gas Company, the potential developers of a proposed natural gas pipeline; and

* consider the first of two readings of a proposed fireworks ordinance that would ban the use or sale of fireworks anywhere in the city.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]