Solar Benefits Rewarding For Harwich

By: William F. Galvin

Topics: Public Utilities

The solar array at the former Harwich landfill.  FILE PHOTO

HARWICH — The solar photovoltaic array at the landfill netted the town $441,216 last year.

Cape and Vineyard Electric Cooperative manager Liz Argo was before selectmen Monday night to discuss the continuation of a one-quarter penny assessment on kilowatt hour generation to assist the agency in funding its operations. CVEC serves as the intermediary between municipalities on the Cape and Vineyard and contractors developing solar arrays on municipal properties.

In FY17, Argo pointed out, with an initial agreement at one-half cent, the town contributed $8,961 to CVEC. A total of $36,298 was generated from the seven communities that participated in round one solar projects to help meet the coop’s budget. In that year the seven communities received a total of $1,376,666 as host communities. The assessment is being reduced to one-quarter cent this year.

Since the initial agreement with CVEC, Argo said the projects have saved towns and school systems more than $13 million and represents a large amount of greenhouse gas reductions. The Harwich landfill solar array is one of the largest of the five projects, Argo said.

Harwich has four solar projects planned, including a solar canopy with shelter and power for the community center; the public safety facility on Sisson Road, where there will be a solar canopy and roof installation with a battery added; a ground-mount system for the golf maintenance building at Cranberry Valley Golf Course; and a roof system for the golf cart barn to power electric golf carts.

Argo praised the efforts of former town Administrator Christopher Clark over the past year in bringing these projects forward, highlighting negotiations with Eversource to provide groundwork improvements for the golf course projects.

“Harwich has the lion’s share of round four and they are beautiful projects,” Argo said.

She also pointed out CVEC has been working with Monomoy Regional High School to add a roof-based solar array to the school. There are a total of 20 projects in round four, and 19 developers have responded to RFPs.

“Adding over 25 PV projects through rounds four and five will not only boost the current $3 million saved yearly by our towns in electric costs, it will also help shore up CVEC’s operations funding,” Argo stated in her position paper.

With the community solar overlay district approved in town meeting, part of the Green Communities Program, Argo said the town can lease the site and generate funds. But there is also a community overlay that allows residents and businesses to get involved in the solar process and receive reductions in electricity costs.

Board of Selectmen Chairman Larry Ballantine asked about the trend of net benefits to the town. Those benefits are going up, Argo said, for two reasons: the quality of solar resources this past year and the net metering value increase as the cost of electricity goes up.

Argo said Eversource tried to get the net metering credit rate changed to decrease the rates to communities. CVEC intervened and Eversource did not succeed in changing the rate.

Selectman Michael MacAskill put forth a motion to approve the assessment with the condition all other participating communities approve it. Selectmen approved the motion.