GRAY — Nearly a year after the town signed an agreement with ReVision Energy, construction has begun on a solar array that will offset 100% of municipal energy costs and immediately save thousands of dollars.

Town Council Chairperson Sandy Carder proposed the project in 2018.

“The technology has come a long way and the price of solar (energy) has dropped to such a point that it’s now economically more viable,” Carder told the Lakes Region Weekly in January.

Crews began the installation process for the solar panels this week in Gray. Emily Bader / Lakes Region Weekly

The town signed a 25-year Power Purchase Agreement with a 15-year extension option in November 2019 with ReVision, who is constructing the array.

The town worked with ReVision’s Nick Sampson over 18 months to figure out the details of the agreement and ensure it would be financially beneficial to residents.

A third-party investor owns the array and sells electricity to the town at a rate discounted over Central Maine Power’s, according to the agreement, which will immediately save the town $7,000 to $8,000 annually, according to Carder.

The anonymous investor fronts the costs of installation and, after six years, the town will have the option to buy the array.

“Conceivably, we could use that (accrued savings over six years) to pay for that array, so instead of that being part of our budget it would go towards a bond or some sort of financing agreement,” said Carder.

After 12 years, the array will pay for itself, and the town will have free electricity, according to Carder.

ReVision projected an estimated $2.9 million in savings over the array’s 40-year lifespan, which includes the cost to purchase the array and maintenance costs thereafter.

“It’s a huge savings for taxpayers. It’s really hard to find savings … This is a great opportunity for the town of Gray and it’s low risk,” said Carder.

ReVision Project Manager Josh Baston said they’re looking to finish the array in December.

Baston suspected that the COVID-19 pandemic was the reason behind the delay in obtaining a permit from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. The permit was required because the array sits on a landfill behind the Recycling and Solid Waste Center on Seagull Drive.

In the two and a half weeks since receiving the DEP permit, crews have already laid the foundations for most of the 1,000-plus photovoltaic panels and started installation on the panels themselves this week.

“We had all the material on-site and I think we all know how quickly the weather can change coming into late fall in Maine, so we’re moving pretty quickly,” said Baston.

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