YARMOUTH — Yarmouth should work with a “remote generator” to purchase rebates and reduce its electric bill instead of building a municipal solar array to lower energy costs, according to a recommendation by the Renewable Energy and Sustainability Committee.

The municipal committee initially recommended this past summer that a solar project should be built on the capped landfill or on other town-owned land. However, after further study, member David Ertz told the Town Council on Feb. 6 that it makes more sense to purchase power from a solar array that’s already up and running or one that’s almost ready to go online.

Ertz said last week the town hopes to offset up to 85% of its cost for electricity by entering into a purchase agreement that would provide a set price for a power rebate over a 20-year period.

By purchasing remote solar energy, he said, the town would pay 9 cents per kilowatt-hour the first year, with a 1.5% annual escalation. Between the town and the school department, Yarmouth consumes nearly 3 million kilowatt-hours of power per year, with the town accounting for 1.6 million and the schools $1.3 million at an annual cost of $315,000, Ertz said.

With a power purchase agreement, he said the town and schools could expect to save $80,000 in the first year and a total of $2.3 million over 20 years.

If the town built its own array, Ertz said, the savings would amount to $38,000 in the first year and almost $1.2 million over 20 years. With the remote power generation, he argued, the town has no ownership and maintenance costs to contend with, which represents much of the difference in savings.

Ertz said he’d like to see the council agree to enter into a power purchase agreement sometime this year.

He said the town needs to “act quickly” if it wants to take advantage of federal tax credits that are helping solar generators to develop solar power generation projects throughout the state. Ertz said state incentives are also only available for a limited time.

“There are a lot more opportunities available now that weren’t available several years ago,” Ertz said, which is why he urged the council to act now. “Our goal is to mitigate rising utility costs and provide more certainty in our energy costs,” he said. In addition to saving money, Ertz said the move will have a positive impact on the environment.

He noted that many neighboring towns, such as Falmouth, Cumberland, Freeport, Gray and Cape Elizabeth are also either looking into buying or generating solar power or have projects up and running already.

Heather Abbott, chairwoman of the energy efficiency committee, said this week that “while we would love to have the solar array in Yarmouth, the remote generation will be faster to build with much less risk involved and save Yarmouth more money.”

The council is set to further discuss options and possibly vote on the next step at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27 at the American Legion Log Cabin, 196 Main St.

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