Sunday, September 14, 2014

Warwick Set to Reap Solar Windfall

WARWICK — The town could benefit from a solar energy deal that seemed too good to be true.

Warwick has agreed to be a “net metering host” for a solar electricity array to be built in West Brookfield by Seaboard Solar.

For little more than having its name on a meter at the planned 7.91 megawatt array, Warwick could be paid about $50,000 per year, according to Town Coordinator David Young.

Young said the deal had seemed too good to be true, but with no obligations on the town’s part, Warwick decided to give it a try. If it doesn’t work out, he said, there won’t be much lost.

“We’ve got little invested besides our patience and time spent reviewing contracts,” Young said. “We don’t have much skin in the game.”

Young said Seaboard has missed some deadlines and the project has met some delays, but he is confident it will move forward.

While money from the Seaboard project would flow north to Warwick, none of the actual electricity produced there will.

The town would receive up to 10 megawatt-hours of net metering credits, the maximum allowed by the state. The credits would be sold back to Seaboard at a half-cent per kilowatt hour, and the actual power would be sold to utility companies like National Grid and the Western Massachusetts Electric Co.

The process helps the utility companies meet state requirements that they provide a certain percentage of solar power to cities and towns.

While Young admitted that the arrangement is a bit of smoke and mirrors, since none of the solar power makes it to the host town, he said similar arrangements have helped bring solar power to Massachusetts.

“The incentives have meant that solar power has been brought to market faster than anyone thought possible,” Young said.

While the West Brookfield project has been delayed, Young said he is confident that it will be built.


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