Solar project approval questioned
by Lauren Harkawik
Jan 21, 2018 | 1822 views | 0 0 comments | 98 98 recommendations | email to a friend | print
DOVER - At its meeting on Tuesday night, the Dover Selectboard tabled lease negotiations with Green Lantern Solar, pending further research and the town’s attorney’s review of a letter submitted to the board by zoning administrator Wayne Estey, who expressed concerns “regarding the selectboard’s unprecedented rush to approve this agreement.”

Green Lantern initially approached the board in August about allowing the group to do a feasibility study on the town’s landfill to see if it was suitable for a solar array. The board agreed to the study in October. In December, Ralph Meima, director of project development for Green Lantern, said the study deemed the site suitable for a 150 kW array with an approximate one-acre footprint. He asked that the town enter lease negotiations with Green Lantern, which the board agreed to do.

If the solar array were built, the town would act as a landlord with Green Lantern as a tenant. In addition, there would be a community buy-in period when residents of the town could purchase panels on the array. When Meima initially presented to the board at its August 1 meeting, he said he would expect that panels would be sold for $3.85 per watt, which he said was an overall approximate $1,000 cost per panel. At the time, Meima said 15-16 panels per household is a typical buy-in for a single family home.

At the board’s December 18 meeting, Meima said the community buy-in had been less abundant than expected in a similar project in Guilford. At the time, Meima said, “There was less of a response than we expected. I don’t want to raise expectations too high. Six months ago I was a lot more optimistic about (community buy-in in) Guilford than I am now.”

In Estey’s letter, he expressed concern about the potential for scant community participation. “My understanding is that Green Lantern’s experience with similar agreements demonstrated that public subscription offers have been unsuccessful and Green Lantern does not expect them to be successful in this instance either,” wrote Estey. “The reason the public subscriptions have been and will be unsuccessful here is that the financial benefits of this agreement accrue to the parties other than Dover’s citizens. This Green Lantern admission confirms that other townspeople have not gotten a deal worth signing on to.”

Meima said he wasn’t “sure what information” Estey was referencing to make that statement, but said the Guilford project had about 10 households buy in, comprising approximately one-tenth of the overall available panels, and the project “fell short” of what Green Lantern had hoped for. Meima noted that in a new project in Newfane, a project he said was similar to the proposed Dover project, the marketing period for community buy-in had not yet happened.

In his letter, Estey urged the board to consider getting other bids before signing with Green Lantern. “The town’s landfill and the sun that shines on it are the property rights of Dover’s citizens,” wrote Estey. “The selectboard’s consideration of an agreement to sell these property rights without seeking competitive bids is poor public policy at best, inconsistent with past processes when selling or disposing of public property, and possibly contrary to the selectboard’s legal authority and duty.”

Meima said that his experience was that the lease for a 150 kW array with a one-acre footprint similar to Dover’s is typically between $3,800 and $4,000.

Vice chair Vicki Capitani asked what other towns’ leases were, and Meima, noting that other towns’ agreements would be public information, looked up Newfane’s, which was $5,000. Capitani said she would like to research what other towns’ leases were as well.

Resident and business owner Adam Levine questioned the benefit to the residents of the town if there isn’t a lot of community buy-in and the lease brings in $4,000 or $5,000 per year.

“We only need to raise $4,000 less a year (to have the same savings),” said Levine. “So every building will save a dollar. One dollar. That’s going to be the benefit to somebody who doesn’t buy in.”

“It also pays taxes,” said Meima.

“So, two dollars,” said Levine.

Meima said every town has different priorities, and Green Lantern can adjust its approach to the project overall to fit. “If it is your priority to make this available first as a community array that is the approach we’ll take,” said Meima. He offered to host a public meeting in the town to engage the community in the matter. Capitani said she was “not quite there yet, personally,” and other board members agreed.

The matter was tabled pending attorney review of Estey’s letter and further research by the board.

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