By Melanie Petrucci, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – In a memo from Shrewsbury Electric Cable Operations (SELCO) General Manager Michael Hale to the Board of Selectmen for their Jan. 9 meeting, Hale presented an argument for SELCO to enter into a new agreement with Massachusetts Municipal Electric Company (MMWEC) that would enable an array of solar panels to be put at the Shrewsbury Landfill.
“The subsidies available to solar developers are known as Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SREC),” the memo read. “In communities served by municipal electric utilities, these subsidies are scheduled to expire by mid-May. Customers in communities served by Investor Owned Utilities will be subjected to a new tariff on their monthly bill. The tariff will provide a subsidy to those who opt to put solar on their roof. This change in state policy dictates that if another large-scale project is to be built in Shrewsbury, it needs to start immediately.”
At the meeting, Hale was accompanied by Town Counsel Steven Madaus to present this project plan which was approved at Town Meeting. The original solar developer and subsequent developer pulled out of the project at the “11th hour” after the town had invested countless hours of staff time and several thousand dollars, leaving SELCO and the town without a project.
“The SELCO Commission, when I reported to them, asked me to consider any creative means to try to salvage the project and I didn’t think there would be any,” Hale said.
The opportunity with MMWEC was timely.
MMWEC will hire a contractor to build the solar array and lease the project to SELCO to operate. A benefit of this plan will result in SELCO owning the panels at the end of the lease agreement. SELCO will pay MMWEC an annual fee for the debt service affiliated with the project after which the project will be sold to SELCO for a nominal fee of $1. The amount due under the lease agreement is an operating expense of SELCO and not debt of the town, according to Hale’s memo.
“Great work,” noted Selectman Jim Kane. “You’ve found a way to remove the realities of the market place and insulate the town at the same time and achieve a great outcome.”
“I also thank you for your tenacity in making solar a reality and I almost think of this as a ‘Hail Mary’ pass for the solar project,” added Selectman Beth Casavant.
The project received unanimous approval from the board.