Kennebunkport has agreed to buy solar energy from Encore Renewable Energy, which is in the process of getting approvals to build two farms in Athens, near Skowhegan. The agreement is projected to save the town more than $29,000 a year for its municipal energy use. Kennebunkport is one of several towns in the Southern Maine Solar Collaborative. Courtesy Photo

KENNEBUNKPORT – Selectmen have voted to authorize an agreement with an energy company to buy solar energy credits, projected to save the town thousands of dollars in municipal energy costs in the coming years.

The town is not alone in the initiative, but will have its own contract with Encore Renewable Energy, a Vermont-based solar energy company that is preparing to build two solar farms in Athens, Maine, near Skowhegan.

Savings are projected at more than $29,000 annually and close to $600,000 over the length of the 20-year contract, officials said.

Kennebunkport, along with Ogunquit, Old Orchard Beach, Kittery, Waterboro and Fryeburg, together called the Southern Maine Solar Collaborative, worked with Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission’s Sustainability Coordinator Karina Graeter to explore the possibilities.

In all, seven companies presented nine bids for a Net Energy Billing Agreement said Graeter.

Graeter explained how Net Energy Billing works: A solar project delivers electricity to the utility – in this case CMP – via the grid. Central Maine Power issues Net Energy Billing credits and applies them to client accounts, and then the client, in this case Kennebunkport, pays the solar developer for the credits at a discount rate.

Encore offered a 27.5 percent discount, said Graeter, the highest among the bidders. The lowest offer was a 15 percent credit.

Companies bidding ranged from large public traded international organizations to a nonprofit and smaller companies, such as Encore.

The town managers of the communities involved got together and rated the companies’ submission on risk, cost, energy discount offered, similar project experience, where the company’s project was in the approval process and other factors.

Encore has also had prior experience in Maine, with Augusta and Cape Elizabeth, Graeter said.

She said while construction has not yet begun on Encore’s two Athens projects, they are nearly ready to start. Land leases are in place, along with most local permits. She said the timeline projects construction this fall and winter, with a view to being up and running by early 2022.

“If Kennebunkport buys 86 percent of its energy, it will be allowed 864,000 kilowatt hours a year and the credits will be assigned a value by PUC – it changes year to year, (and is currently at .1256 per kilowatt hour), ” said Graeter.

Savings translate into $29,870 a year at the current value, or $597,400 over 20 years. The contract calls for early termination if the projects are not complete on time, does not produce adequate electricity or the town is not able to appropriate the funds.

“Wow, that’s great,” said selectman Alan Daggett.

“I’m so impressed that you’ve done this, this is terrific,” said selectman Ed Hutchins.

“This project is a win, win, win, win,” said Smith. “And it would not have moved along at this pace if not for Karina and the ability to pool our resources with other communities.”

When chair Sheila Matthews-Bull called for the vote at he online meeting, it was unanimous by those present; selectman Patrick Briggs was absent due to internet problems.

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