To reduce electric expenses and shrink Brunswick’s carbon footprint, town officials are considering solar energy options to power municipal and school buildings.
In a joint town council and school board workshop Wednesday, Economic Development Director Sally Costello laid out a recommendation that would enter Brunswick into a 20-year, off-site contract through ReVision Energy for up to 70% of the combined municipal and school electric expenses.
Off-site solar means that Brunswick would not be building its own solar array, instead entering a power purchase agreement that would ultimately certify the town’s use of renewable energy.
Brunswick’s current annual estimated electric cost is $460,274, not including streetlights.
Due to Maine’s Net Energy Billing Program, the town would essentially be offered a 20-year fixed discount of 21.5%, resulting in an estimated first-year savings of $69,271 and an estimated 20-year savings of over $1.6 million.
ReVision Energy is a renewable energy contracting company based in South Portland that is paid by investors to build and manage renewable projects. According to commercial solar consultant John Dunster, investors recoup profit through tax incentives and, in the case of the Brunswick proposal, a $.096 payment per kilowatt hour that the town uses, which represents a $.026 savings over the current rate.
The contract would cost the town no additional upfront costs, according to both Costello and Dunster.
Brunswick Town Councilor Steve Walker said during Wednesday’s meeting that while he is all for solar and green energy, he has seen thousands of acres of Maine farmland, rare natural ecosystems and wetlands being developed for solar.
“If it’s rooftop or if it’s brown field, I’m all in, but if there is a way that we could screen for actually green energy verses green-washed energy, that’s my concern,” Walker said, referencing a marketing strategy that makes initiatives appear more environmentally-friendly than they actually are.
While it is too early to commit to a specific site, Dunster said, ReVision does already have an off-site array currently being developed in mind that Brunswick could be slotted into.
Dunster could not speak on the exact location but said the site already has interconnection approval and that ReVision Energy strictly follows wetland regulation.
Dunster said that, should Brunswick sign on soon, the contract would kick-in in late 2022 or early 2023.
“Seems like there’s a sense of urgency to get it done before the opportunity disappears,” said Brunswick Town Manager John Eldridge. “Not unexpectedly there’s a lot of support for exploring these options.”
According to Eldridge, while an exact date has not been determined, the contract will likely go to a council vote at a July meeting.
Other towns that partner with ReVision Energy to power municipal buildings include Topsham, Rangeley, Rockland, Vassalboro, among others.
For the remaining 30% of the town’s electric expenses, Costello presented a recommendation that would enter the town into a one-year agreement for a community solar subscription.
According to Costello, leaving 30% of the expenses out of the ReVision contract would allow the town to have some flexibility going forward with other options, such as roof-top, on-site or any new technology that might occur.