Select Board approves lease, power purchase agreements for school solar arrays

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drone photo of Algonquin Regional High School in Northborough by Tami White
This photo shows the solar array on the roof of Algonquin Regional High School.Photo/Tami White

NORTHBOROUGH – The Public Schools of Northborough and Southborough went before the Select Board seeking to expedite the process to enter into lease and power purchase agreements for solar arrays for Proctor Elementary School and Lincoln Street School.

During their April 29 meeting, the Select Board voted authorized Chair Mitch Cohen to sign the lease and power purchase agreements with Solect Energy, a solar energy company based in Hopkinton that also installed and owns the array on top of Algonquin Regional High School.

Back in 2015, a Solar Feasibility Study Group was established.

In December, the Public Schools of Northborough and Southborough presented seven solar projects during a combined meeting of the Northborough, Southborough and Regional School Committees. In Northborough, the projects would be located at Zeh, Proctor and Lincoln Street, and those projects took a step forward in April after Town Meeting approved three articles to lease the roofs to solar energy providers for the purpose of constructing, maintaining and operating a solar facility and entering into a power purchase agreement with solar energy providers.

Further, the article authorizes the Select Board to grant an easement to National Grid and other utility companies for the installation and maintenance of the projects.

Putting a solar array on Zeh is contingent on replacing the roof, according to the district.

According to Assistant Superintendent of Operations Keith Lavoie, the district intended to get through Town Meeting and then move forward as regularly scheduled. Solect Senior VP and GM of Construction Services Group Brian Herr indicated to the district that there were incentives that the district may lose out on if they didn’t act more quickly on the lease and power purchasing agreement.

According to a memo from Superintendent Greg Martineau to the Select Board, the rationale for the expedited process is for the town to be “held harmless from adjustments the United States Labor Department makes for municipalities in our region.”

Northborough has been designated on the federal level as an Energy Community, and according to Martineau, this means the Proctor and Lincoln Street projects are entitled to an automatic additional 10% bonus tax credit. This is on top of a 30% Federal Investment Tax Credit, according to the presentation to the Select Board.

“Solect Energy will sustain that bonus credit, and in return, Solect will retain the PPA rate, driving higher savings for the Town,” Martineau wrote.

The solar arrays will not cost Northborough residents anything to install, Herr said. Solect and their financing partners pay for everything, and they use the tax credits to help finance the project, he said.

Solect is expecting that Northborough will lose its status as an Energy Community come May 1 when the United States Labor Department will issue update unemployment rates.

“We have this 30-day window from the time the IRS announced it until April 30 to get ourselves in order to try to save you folks – it’s about a $183,000 in savings of electricity over the lifetime of the project based on this 10% ITC alone,” said Herr.

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