CUMBERLAND — The Town Council voted 6-1 last week to work with ReVision Energy on potential installation of a solar farm to meet most of the town’s electricity needs.

The array would be built atop a capped landfill on Drowne Road.

The panel authorized its Finance Committee to negotiate a power purchase agreement with ReVision. The agreement must return to the council for full approval, which could happen May 14.

No public comment was taken at the council’s meeting last week, which riled several audience members who live at the nearby Village Green housing development. The neighbors have concerns about the visual impact of a solar farm, as well as adverse effects on their property values.

But Council Chairman Mike Edes assured residents they will have the opportunity to speak when the agreement comes before the council for consideration.

“Nothing is sealed yet,” Councilor Bill Stiles told the audience. “We’re still looking at it, looking at where it would be positioned, looking at possible screening.”

Councilor Tom Gruber, who voted against the motion, said he supports solar panels and the goal of reducing carbon footprints. “The issue is the location,” he said.

Gruber confirmed with Denny Gallaudet of the Cumberland Climate Action Team that no other locations had been considered for the solar panel.

“The landfill makes really a lot of common sense, because it’s not really usable for anything else” and there is flexibility for how the array is positioned, Gallaudet said. But he noted that “all we need is 4 acres somewhere in town; that’s the footprint.”

Concerns about the solar array come as neighbors have criticized the town for not moving forward with plans to relocate the nearby public works garage, salt shed and school bus building. Space has become tight at those facilities, and relocation would facilitate more housing development, placing the land on the tax rolls.

Cumberland officials have eyed vacant town-owned land bordered by Tuttle Road and the Town Forest, as well as a piece of Cumberland Fairgrounds property, as relocation sites, but both plans have stalled. Councilor Peter Bingham said that no one wants such a facility near where they live.

A neighborhood meeting on the relocation of Public Works is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, May 14, at Town Hall.

“The neighborhood increasingly feels, sounds and looks like an industrial complex with decisions made by the town that blatantly disfavor Village Green and renege on previous agreements,” Katherine Pelletreau of Drowne Road wrote April 22, criticizing the fact that Public Works has yet to move and the Village Green development has yet to be fully implemented.

“Meeting the town’s energy needs through alternative sources of power such as solar makes sense,” she wrote, “but there are lots of better spaces in Cumberland – Twin Brooks or the roofs of the new fire station or school buildings, for example – better suited to this project that wouldn’t pose risks to resident housing values and aesthetics the way the current proposal does.”

Dennis and Mary Chick of Wyman Way noted that locating on a landfill “appears to be a good choice for South Portland and Belfast, but these locations are not adjacent to planned subdivisions or neighborhoods. They are located out of sight.”

Councilor George Turner cautioned residents against assuming their property values would be compromised by a nearby solar array.

“I can assure you that we don’t have any desire to diminish anybody’s values, because that’s where revenues come from, and that’s where taxes are paid,” he said. “As this process goes forward, I think this council in general is going to be very careful to do all it can, if indeed this site ends up being the site, to protect you from any adverse effect of the project.”

ReVision proposes building a $1.1 million array, with 1,376 panels that generate about 617,000 kilowatt-hours annually. To take advantage of federal renewable-energy tax credits and reduce expenses, the array would be sold through a power purchase agreement to an outside investor.

When the tax credits expire in about six years, the town could purchase the array for about $663,000, according to ReVision’s proposal. The municipality could then have free electricity for the life of the array, which could be 40 years. The town could save $2.4 million as a result, Cumberland Climate Action Team member Eric Fitz said in February.

The town spends about $120,000 each year on electricity, including about $70,000-$80,000 for nine municipal properties that include Town Hall, the Val Halla Golf & Recreation Center, Central Fire Station, public works garage and Prince Memorial Library, according to a presentation prepared this year by Cumberland Climate Action Team members Jane Wilson, Gallaudet and Fitz.

Those properties consume roughly 650,000 kilowatt-hours each year – 80 percent of the municipal government’s total energy consumption. Maine Public Utilities Commission regulations for distributed solar energy currently limit municipalities to 10 meters, or accounts, that use energy from solar arrays, Gallaudet said.

Alex Lear can be contacted at 781-3661, ext. 113, or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: learics

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