Eric Fitz and Denny Gallaudet are two members of the Cumberland Climate Action Team, which was instrumental in the town having a solar array installed on a capped landfill. Alex Lear / The Forecaster

CUMBERLAND — With the town’s new solar array up and running on a capped landfill off Drowne Road, an undevelopable property is now expected to produce more than 630,000 kilowatt hours of electricity a year for most municipal facilities.

“It’s (turned) brownfields to greenfield,” said Eric Fitz, a member of the Cumberland Climate Action Team.

ReVision Energy, which has a power purchase agreement with the town and built the 1,248-panel array, expects the town could save $20,000 on electricity in the array’s first year. The town had been spending about $120,000 annually, 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 the team.

The array, which covers roughly 4 acres of the approximately 10-acre landfill, went online in mid-December.

Through a solar power purchase agreement, the town is purchasing power generated by the $1.05 million array from a group of “impact” investors that is partially managed by ReVision, Fitz said.

“Anybody in the country, I think even the world, could participate in this investment vehicle that they have,” he added.

The return on investment for those investors comes from federal tax credits and kilowatt hours sold to the town, which tend to be at a competitive or even better rate than the area utility, according to ReVision. The company expects Cumberland to save about $20,000 in the first year, thanks to that reduced rate.

When the tax credits expire in about six years, the town could purchase the array for about $630,000. The municipality could then have free electricity for the life of the array, which Fitz said could be 40 years.

Cumberland’s new solar array went online in December 2019. Courtesy Eric Fitz

ReVision has estimated the array will have paid for itself five to six years after the town purchases it, according to information Fitz provided. Estimated savings thereafter, in years 12-40, are about $125,000 a year, with the total savings estimate for the array’s four-decade life being about $4 million. Since CMP’s rates are gradually increasing, Cumberland’s expected savings should rise over time as well, Fitz said.

“It’s going to help … our taxpayers, and the whole thing was just a no-brainer,” he said.

Energy cost savings is one incentive, but so is the lessened impact on the environment, Denny Gallaudet of the Cumberland Climate Action Team pointed out. With nearly 700,000 kWh of electricity the town has generated annually now coming strictly from solar energy, about 200 tons of resultant carbon dioxide will no longer be produced, Gallaudet said.

ReVision has installed more than 8,000 electric systems in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts since 2003, according to Joe Pagano, commercial solar consultant with the company. Landfill installations have also been built in South Portland, Portland and Belfast.

New solar policies have allowed larger projects to be built at more affordable rates, Pagano said.

ReVision plans in a few weeks to install a display at Town Hall to allow residents to view historical and real-time production, Fitz said. A web-based dashboard will also be available so people can view the system’s performance via a web browser.

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