A rendering of what the solar array will look like once completed. Contributed / Town of Falmouth

Supply problems have pushed back the completion of Falmouth’s solar array project to next summer.

The project planned for the capped landfill on Woods Road, estimated to save the town just under $2 million over 20 years, originally was scheduled to be up and ready this past summer, but  the pandemic’s impact on the supply chain prevented that from happening, town officials said.

The solar panels, or “modules,” have been purchased and should arrive by the end of the month, town Sustainability Coordinator Ashley Krulik said.

The supply and price of steel for a “wire racking” system to support the solar panels has been the largest complicating factor.

“The wire racking piece has been a little tricky to source given that steel prices have gone up quite a bit,” Krulik said.

The town is looking into alternatives,

A photo simulation of what the solar array will look like from Woods Road. Contributed / Town of Falmouth

“Our consultants are currently looking into some other possible solutions that can serve as the ballast system to support the module system,” Krulik said. “This could be concrete blocks that sit on top of the landfill or a different style of wire racking support systems. They’re currently looking at what other vendors may have available.”

The price of steel increased about 215% between March 2020 and July 2021, according to Forbes.com. The sharp rise has been attributed to the shutdown of many steel mills early in the pandemic at a time when demand remained because homeowners used their lockdown time to begin home renovations and projects.

The solar project comes at no cost to the town. Under the terms of a May 2020 agreement with Tangent Energy Services, Tangent covers the cost of all parts and installation in exchange for being able to use the site at the landfill.

The solar array is expected to offset about 70% of all municipal electricity costs, including those at the town hall and at the police and public works departments.

“Through the Visions and Values project, we have learned how deeply Falmouth residents care about mitigating climate change and protecting our environment,” Town Council Chairperson Amy Kuhn said. “The town’s solar array initiative dovetails perfectly with these community goals.”

In a Visions and Values community survey, 69% percent of respondents said that “embracing renewable energy” was important to them, and just under half of the respondents said that embracing renewable energy was highly important for shaping the future of Falmouth.

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