CAPE ELIZABETH — Cape Elizabeth officials want a partner to develop a solar power system and offset electric bills generated at town-owned buildings.

Bids are being accepted from prospective solar developers to design a solar panel array atop a capped landfill next to the town’s transfer station at 21 Dennison Drive. The site would allow easy connectivity to a power substation on Spurwink Road, said Town Manager Matthew Sturgis.

“It’s an ideal location; the Spurwink substation is just up the street,” he said.

The project would be a net energy billing system, said Sturgis, under which the town would provide the land and the developer would bear the cost of the project and manage and maintain the system for up to 20 years.

The town would contract with the solar operator to purchase power to offset electricity used at town buildings, including Town Hall, the public works facility and schools, said Sturgis.

“There would be no upfront costs to the town,” he said.

Under the proposal, the town would also sign an agreement to give Cape Elizabeth the option to purchase the facility in the future, said Sturgis.

According to data compiled by the town’s Energy Committee, every 500 kilowatts of power generated would save the town between $10,000 and $30,000 in annual electricity bills. The landfill area has the potential to house a solar array that could produce 1500 to 2500 kWh of power. Information about the amount of electricity the town uses annually was not available by The Forecaster’s deadline.

Proposals for the project are due March 6. The Energy Committee will review the applications and forward its recommendations to the Town Council. The council is expected to vote on the final bid June 15, according to the bid request.

Under the suggested timeline, the developer would come up with a final plan and get all the necessary permits and approvals by the end of 2020, with construction set to start April 1, 2021.

“We want to get the ball rolling this year,” said Town Facilities Director Perry Schwarz.

If preliminary work on the project gets underway this year, the developer can best take advantage of the federal Solar Investment Tax Credit. In 2020, the tax credit is equal to 26% of capital investment in the year following installation, said Sturgis and Schwarz. That number drops down to 22% in 2021 and 10% in 2022.

It would also be advantageous for a developer to get the project going as soon as possible so it could apply to get on the local electric grid before other projects seek to connect to the Spurwink substation, said Schwarz.

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