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Limestone Water and Sewer District to break ground on solar array

LIMESTONE, Maine — The Limestone Water and Sewer District is partnering with ReVision Energy of New England to install a solar array in the former Limestone Industrial Park on Albert Road, with groundbreaking set for the week of Oct. 8. 

The project will consist of eight rows of solar panels in a 3.8 acre area, capable of producing 563 kilowatts of DC power and 450 kilowatts of AC power.

Officials believe this partnership will save the town money, not only because of the reduced cost of electricity, but because ReVision will initially take advantage of tax incentives not available to the Water and Sewer District and, after six years, the district (a quasi-municipal entity within the town) will buy back the solar array at a cost that is significantly less than what the town would have paid had it not partnered with the company.

Jim Leighton, water and sewer district superintendent, said the solar project and partnership will significantly help with the town’s electric needs and save rate-payers money in the long run.

During an Oct. 3 Limestone Select Board meeting, Leighton introduced Water and Sewer District Board member Chuck Kelley, who explained the project in detail.

Kelley said that, in brainstorming the project, they discovered that a 30 percent tax credit is available for solar projects, but that it cannot be given to a municipality because it doesn’t pay taxes.

That’s when district officials decided to partner with ReVision.

“This allows a third party company [ReVision] to take advantage of the tax incentives so there’s a savings,” he said, “and that savings gets passed down to us when we’re in a position to buy the project outright at a reduced cost compared to what it would have been at 100 percent.”

Kelley said the current arrangement is a 25 year agreement with an option to buy out at year six, which the district plans to do, and at which point the town “will be able to receive all the savings from the electrical generation.”

He said that, in year five, the town will save around $5,000, but once it owns the system outright those savings will add up to about “$100,000 a year for all our sites together.”

Kelley concluded that the Water and Sewer District is in a position to sign the agreement and that while the selectmen did not need to formally sign anything on their end, he is seeking their approval to move forward with the project and “save our ratepayers some money in the long term.”

Selectman Walt Elliott asked how long the project will take to implement from start to finish, and Kelley said that groundbreaking was tentatively planned for the week of Oct. 8 with plans to finish by the end of the year.

Selectman Chris Durepo asked about the value of the overall project, and Kelley said it’s worth “a little over one million” dollars.

Steve Hinchman, chief counsel and director of development for ReVision Energy, said the total value is about $1.1 million.

Patrick St. Peter asked if they planned to use fixed panels or automated panels programmed to move and face the sun throughout the day.

Kelley said they are choosing to use fixed panels because they will allow for a higher overall capacity at a lower cost, and Hinchman added that fixed panels have a “longer commercial lifespan” as opposed to tracker panels because there are “no moving parts.”

At this point, all officials present said they were not aware of a need for a permit to move forward, but interim Town Manager Tom Stevens suggested that the board go on the record to express their support for the project if they were in favor of moving forward.

“If this board is supportive of having a resolution of support,” said Hinchman, “it demonstrates in good faith that we came to you and that you had a chance to review the project.”

Elliott made a motion to show support for the project and the board, which only consisted of three members due to two being absent to attend to potato harvest, unanimously showed their support.

According to Leighton, ReVision will break ground on Columbus Day, with solar modules scheduled for delivery in mid-October.

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