The solar array will be installed this summer on the town’s landfill. Jane Vaughan / Lakes Region Weekly

GRAY — This summer, Gray will construct a solar array on its town landfill to offset 100% of the town’s municipal electricity costs and save the town an estimated $3 million over the array’s 40-year lifespan, town officials say.

Town Council Chairwoman Sandy Carder first brought the idea to the council in early 2018.

I’ve always been interested in environmental causes,” she said. “Now, the technology has come a long way and the price of solar (energy) has dropped to such a point that it’s now economically more viable.”

Town Manager Deb Cabana said Gray chose to construct the array “to be more mindful of the energy that we’re using,” to save tax dollars and to be more efficient.

“It seems like the right thing to do,” she said. 

Carder conducted some research and went with town staff and Cabana to tour South Portland’s solar array, which is located on a landfill.

You can’t do much else with landfills,” Carder said, so the array will be built on the landfill behind the town’s Recycling and Solid Waste Center on Seagull Drive. 

The town entered into a 25-year Power Purchase Agreement with ReVision Energy in November 2019 with the opportunity to extend it for another 15 years. Under a PPA, an investor owns the solar array and sells electricity to the town at a discounted price over Central Maine Power’s rate. The town will not have to pay any upfront cost to install the array, and the electricity it generates will offset 100% of Gray’s municipal electricity costs. 

The array, which will be installed by ReVision, will be comprised of over 1,000 photovoltaic panels. The project will save the town over $5,000 a year right off the bat and the savings will increase to over $8,000 annually by the fifth year.

Installing the array was “the responsible thing to do, but also fiscally, it wasn’t going to cost the town any money, and we were going to be saving electricity,” Cabana said. “It was a good council decision to move forward fiscally and sustainably.” 

After six years, Gray has the opportunity to buy the array “at fair market price,” Carder said.

By then, “the savings in electricity … would pay for the cost of the purchasing it,” Carder said. Gray could enter into a 10-year bond, and the savings the town had accrued over the previous six years would pay for the bond.

Using PPAs to install solar arrays has recently become popular throughout the state. Sebago installed an array on its salt shed in fall 2018.

Carder said ReVision is going through the town’s permitting process and will have to work with the Planning Board and receive a permit from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection in order to begin construction. She hopes that the installation will take place this summer.

She is proud to be part of a project that is not only important for environmental sustainability and reducing the town’s carbon footprint, but also reduces taxes, saying, “It’s not easy to find ways to reduce expenses.” 

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