Legal Issues Shadow Monomoy High School Solar Project

By: William F. Galvin

Topics: Monomoy Regional High School , Renewable Energy

Entrance to Monomoy Regional High School.

HARWICH — Legal issues could delay construction of a photovoltaic array on the roof of Monomoy Regional High School.

The project is one of four approved for Harwich under round four of the Cape and Vineyard Electric Cooperative’s agreement with the town to expand solar power generation. Liz Argo, Executive Director of CVEC, told selectmen a couple of weeks ago the project was approved about a year and a half ago and the company awarded the contract for the Monomoy school project, Distributed Solar Development of Schenectady, N.Y., was anxious to get started.

However, there are ownership and leasing issues that need to be clarified between the town, the Monomoy Regional School District and Distributed Solar Development. The company also is facing a deadline for capitalization of the project that could expire by the end of the month.

When Argo was before selectmen two weeks ago there was discussion about a subordination agreement the developer, which would be the owner of the solar array equipment placed on the roof of the school, was looking to put in place to assure its long-term ownership of the solar array.

Interim Town Administrator Joseph Powers said he had been communicating with town counsel about the need for a recognition and acknowledgment agreement, not the subordination document, between the contractor, school district and the town. Powers said counsel indicated such an agreement may require town meeting approval.

“I spoke with town counsel on this matter Friday afternoon and it is my understanding that he is working on a redline version for my review while working with representatives from DSD to complete the process ahead of their financing deadline,” Powers said Monday.

“The shovels are ready,” Argo said of Distributed Solar Development’s push to get the project underway. “We would have broken ground this month.”

Powers told selectmen last week if the project is to go forward, the agreement has to be between the contractor, the schools and the town. Selectmen approved a motion instructing Powers to execute an agreement.

Argo praised the project, pointing out the rooftop solar array caught the attention of the contractor and it was the first bid out of 20 projects CVEC put out, and elicited the lowest bid. If the financial agreement falls through for the developer, it would alter the capitalization and the developer wouldn’t be able to pass on the savings now proposed, she said.

Should the project fall further behind, Argo said it should be able to move forward with students back in school, noting that a similar school project took place in the Dennis-Yarmouth School District over the winter months while students were in class.

The rooftop solar array is estimated to generate 228,636 kWh annually and provide the school with $34,290 in electricity cost savings a year.

“We’re holding our breath and have our fingers and toes crossed,” Argo said of getting the documents in place by the end of the month.

The town has four solar array projects in CVEC’s fourth round, including a solar canopy on the community center, a rooftop array for the Cranberry Valley Golf Course cart barn, and another 209 Queen Anne Rd. A solar canopy for the public safety building on Sisson Road was dropped from this round. Argo said the projects are expected to begin getting installed later in the fall.