A rendering of the new solar panel array planned for the capped landfill near the Cape Elizabeth recycling center on Cooper Drive. Courtesy / Sam Milton

CAPE ELIZABETH—Cape Elizabeth town officials are moving forward with a new solar panel project that is expected to provide three-quarters of municipal electricity needs and save the town $900,000 in energy costs over the project’s 20-year lifetime.

The Town Council voted at its July 20 meeting to allow Town Manager Matthew Sturgis to begin negotiations with Vermont-based Encore Renewable Energy to build the project.

“This is where it all begins,” Sturgis said.

Facilities Director Perry Schwartz said the project will be located at a 3-acre landfill near the town recycling center at 10 Cooper Drive.

“The project would cover the entire landfill,” he said.

Schwartz said the project, known as a solar photovoltaic array, will be a series of solar panels that, when complete, are expected to produce nearly 1.5 million kilowatt hours per year.

To put that in perspective, that’s enough to provide 75% of the town’s municipal electricity needs, according to Sam Milton, who chairs the energy committee, a citizen advisory committee formed last year to help the town figure out ways to reduce electricity consumption and costs.

“It’s a good-sized project,” he said.

Sturgis said construction of the new solar panels will likely begin next year. Encore, he said, will pay for and own the panels, and the town will have to buy electricity from the company, but it is anticipated to be at a substantially lower rate than Central Maine Power, the town’s current municipal electricity vendor.

“It’s a public/private partnership,” Sturgis said.

Sturgis said the town pays CMP 12.76 cents per kWh hour, and municipal buildings use about 2.2 million kWh of electricity per year, costing a little over $280,000. The town is still negotiating a new rate with Encore, but are working with a proposed new rate of 8.99 cents per kWh. Sturgis estimates in the short term that will save about $84,000 a year.

He said annual savings may fluctuate due to the rate CMP charges, and because the panels will provide less power as they age, but estimates over the panels’ 20-year lifetime the town will save $900,000. Milton said it may be possible down the road for the town to purchase the panels as well, though the cost is unknown.

Town officials have said in the past that they are interested in seeing Cape Elizabeth become more energy efficient. There is no official plan or deadline, with Sturgis calling the interest “mostly high-level goals,” but the town is still taking the concept of energy efficiency seriously. Milton said a measure to replace the bulbs in all the town’s streetlights with energy-efficient LEDs was cut from the 2021 budget, but will likely be proposed again as part of the 2022 budget.

Milton also said his committee is interested in more efficient buildings, and as the town considers renovations and building projects, such as school renovation projects discussed earlier this year, “we will be closely working with the designers” to promote more energy-efficient construction.”

One long-term idea, Milton said, might be to replace some of the town’s vehicles with electric or hybrid vehicles, but Milton said the committee is still looking into just what that might look like someday.

Sean Murphy 780-9094

Email: [email protected]

Comments are not available on this story.