TOPSHAM — A group of 10 residents and business owners want Topsham to buy into solar power to offset the town’s energy costs, but selectmen aren’t biting, according to the town manager. 

Nick Whatley of Topsham Solar Advocates hopes to convince Topsham officials tonight to let them seek pricing for purchasing solar power, a step some other municipalities have taken. 

For example, Woolwich has a six-year solar panel rental agreement with ReVision Energy, with an option to purchase the panels after those six years are up. 

Under the agreement, ReVision Energy installed the $80,000 solar array at no cost to the town. The project is expected to save Woolwich $4,500 a year and pay itself back in 10 years. 

Whatley hopes Topsham selectmen will give the go-ahead to get proposals from solar companies for power-purchase agreements for the town. 

In addition, Solar Advocates say power-purchase agreements would allow Topsham to buy power from a solar provider at a set rate per kilowatt-hour. That could save the town around $37,000 according to estimates. 

However, Town Manager Rich Roedner said selectmen are not interested in owning a solar project or facility, though Topsham stands to save $97,000 a year after a hypothetical 7-year buyout.  

As an owner or part-owner, Roedner said it could cost Topsham another $60,000 or $70,000 to hire somebody to run a solar facility 

“What have you gained?” he said. “That is the kind of risk the (select) board has indicated they don’t want to take on. They would rather do something that is a sure thing.” 

Between July 2018 and June 2019, the town paid $180,000-$190,000 for electricity, according to Roedner: $3,400 at the solid waste facility, $5,200 at the public works garage, $17,000 at the public library and $41,000 at the town office and public safety building.  

Roedner said the town gets Central Maine Power Co. bills for 32 different accounts. It buys its power from Constellation NewEnergy Inc., through Maine Power Options, which gets competitive pricing for bulk power for municipalities and nonprofit organizations.  

Whatley said the solar bills that passed in Augusta have created tax incentives to draw private investors to solar projects in Maine.  

In 2019 there is a 30% federal tax credit for solar systems that offsets the investment to build them, he said. But after 2019, the tax credit depreciates, dropping to 26% next year and 22% the following year, before dropping to 10% for the ensuing years. 

“So, we’re kind of right at a sweet spot for attracting capital investment to the whole solar (venture),” Whatley said. 

Selectmen will meet 7 p.m. tonight at the town office. 

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