The Scarborough Committee on Sustainability and Energy discussed the purchase of solar arrays that are installed on several town-owned buildings on Wednesday, Jan. 22. Don Kimball/Scarborough Leader

SCARBOROUGH — With over 20,200 citizens, the town of Scarborough continues its rapid growth, and with that growth, continues to explore ways to save taxpayers’ money by going green. Foremost in this effort is using alternative energy sources such as solar and geothermal, such as the solar panels installed on the town’s Community Services maintenance garage and the West Scarborough fire station, as well as geothermal units in Wentworth Middle School.

Going green can present many challenges ranging from calculating return on investment, probabilities in the energy market, and calculating peak sun hours.
These were just some of the issues up for discussion at the Town Hall on Wednesday, Jan. 22, when members of the Committee on Sustainability and Energy met.

One of the main topics on Jan. 22 was to determine whether or not to buy out the current solar arrays on the fire house and maintenance building from Revision Energy, according to Sustainability Coordinator and Staff Liaison Jami Fitch, whose job involves increasing energy efficiency and recycling for the town,

“The arrays were installed in 2014 through a power purchase agreement, or PPA, with Revision Energy,” Fitch said in an email.

Revision now maintains the equipment and the city pays an annual maintenance fee.

“Through the PPA, the Town did not incur any upfront costs to install the arrays,” Fitch said. “Instead, the Town paid Revision on a quarterly basis based on the energy the arrays produced. The amount paid to Revision was essentially equal to CMP’s standard offer for electricity minus $0.02.”

The solar array at the town’s maintenance building provides two-thirds of the energy required, resulting in an average energy bill of only $16 a month. No data was provided for the fire station, but since it is staffed 24/7, it was expected that the costs would be higher.

“This year, 2020, is the Town’s first opportunity to purchase the arrays,” Fitch said. “If the Town decides to hold off on the purchase, it will have the opportunity to purchase the arrays on an annual basis in subsequent years.”

Fitch said, per the PPA the purchase price would be “fair market value.”

At the committee meeting it was reported that the maximum cost to the town for the buyout would be $72,000.

According to its website, Revision Energy is the number one rooftop solar installer in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, installing 16.4 megawatts of solar power in 2018. They are also a Certified B Corporation, which applies companies that offer a positive vision of ways to do business. The “B” stands for “Benefit” Corporation and denotes that a company has pledged itself to a defined set of non-traditional business practices which benefit both the company and the community.

Currently, Scarborough has no ordinances regarding large solar arrays, which the Long-Range Planning Committee would have to address.

“The Sustainability Committee is reviewing the lifecycle cost estimates for the arrays that were provided by Revision and energy usage at both buildings to make a recommendation to the Town Council about purchasing the arrays,” Fitch said. “If the Committee recommends the arrays be purchased, the funds would be included in FY21 (July 2020 – June 2021) capital improvement plans for Community Services and the Fire Department.”

“The Committee plans to make its recommendation at their February 19th meeting,” she said.

It will be up to the Town Council decide whether to include the funds to purchase the arrays in the FY21 budget.

Executive Editor Dina Mendros contributed to this report.

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