WOOLWICH — Municipal buildings in Woolwich just got a bit greener with the ribbon-cutting of a solar array built on the town’s old landfill.

The array, consisting of 78 photovoltaic panels, will generate an estimated 29,656-kilowatt hours of energy each year. The project is expected to save the town $4,500 a year, and will pay itself back in 10 years and likely last decades more.

The process to get the solar panels started, according to Select Board Member Alison Hepler, when a resident approached the town about the possibility of solar energy.

“We thought about putting them on one of the municipal buildings, and then we thought about the top of the closed landfill,” said Hepler.

Initially, they thought of putting it directly on top of the landfill. However, due to specific restrictions, the project initially was proving too expensive.

“We don’t have a large electric bill, and when you put something on top of a landfill, you can’t put stuff in the ground that punctures a cap,” said Hepler. The ‘cap’ is designed to keep waste from entering the nearby ecosystems. “It was too expensive for the amount of electricity we were going to get.”

After consulting with ReVision Energy, the company that installed the new panels, they decided that it was still possible if the panels were installed on pieces of land that didn’t have to contend with the landfill cap itself.

The proposal was made, and residents approved of the project.

“We had a public hearing, and we took it to town meeting, and they voted for it,” said Hepler.

Nick Sampson, a solar consultant with ReVision, said town officials made the project happen.

“The Town of Woolwich was incredibly helpful and motivated throughout the proposal and decision-making process for this project. We are very excited to see them start benefiting from their solar array which is projected to offset 99 percent of the Town’s entire electricity consumption,” said Sampson.

The $75,000 project was installed at no up-front cost through a power purchase agreement. Essentially, an outside investor purchase the solar array, and the town guarantees it will buy power generated by the solar panels for a certain period of time. This allows the investor to take advantage of tax credits, which Woolwich – since it pays no tax as a municipality – would lose out on. Woolwich gets cheaper power, and the investor gets to utilize tax incentives.

Under the agreement, the town can choose to buy the array in year seven if they choose to.

Regardless of the town’s future decisions, the new solar panels will end up saving money for the town for the next few decades.

“I’m excited, because it’s sort of a future-oriented project that the town was interested in pursuing,” said Hepler. “The more we can do of that, I think it’s great.”

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