HAVERHILL — A new plan for solar panels at the Bradford landfill has been proposed and City Councilors want more details.
Months after a 2015 plan fell through for solar company SunEdison to place a 2.1-megawatt, 6,500 panel solar array on top of the capped city dump, the city is in talks with Boston-based Kearsarge energy to place a larger, 4.4-megawatt field on the site.
While financial difficulties put an end to SunEdison's proposed solar field, now that another proposal is on the table, the council wants it to happen — for real this time.
City Purchasing Director Steven Bucuzzo appeared before the council Tuesday night to address questions to the proposed deal, which could produce $3.5 million in revenue over the life of a 20-year agreement.
Bucuzzo told the council that the city sent requests for proposals on the solar project to 40 companies in September and that Kearsarge was selected from the eight companies that returned requests. He said that former Purchasing Director and energy manager Orlando Pacheco and the city's energy consultant, the Meister Group, settled on Kearsarge to pursue the project.
Kearsarge was notified of their selection on November 21. He said the company has a year to develop a more detailed proposal and to put its design plans through the city and state permitting process.
At the end of the permitting process, the project's land lease will come before the council for a vote.
"It was a combination of total price proposal, combined land lease and PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) payment over 20 years ... their technical expertise, their strong experience in Massachusetts putting solar arrays on capped landfills, and their very good relationship with National Grid," said Bucuzzo of why Kearsarge selected.
Bucuzzo said that under the state's second State Renewable Energy Credit (SREC), the project would bring the city $4 million in payments and benefits, while the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) program would bring the city $3.6 million.
Pacheco, returned to his former job as Lancaster's town manager, has remained with Haverhill as an energy consultant. Bucuzzo told the council he trusts Pacheco's expertise on solar projects.
"He feels they'll provide a quality development on the landfill," Bucuzzo said. "From their proposals, Kearsarge feels confident they can qualify for (SREC and SMART) if they're still available. Looking at their credentials as a company, they have the resources to get this done on a timely basis."
While Bucuzzo's appearance before the council Tuesday served as an informative session, the council made it known that after the failure of the city and SunEdison project, it would expect results this time.
Councilor William Macek asked about if there is an agreement in place, regarding reduced payments for the permitting and construction phases of the project, as the proposal shows Kearsarge will begin paying the city when the array starts generating power. Macek also wanted to see a completion date set for the project.
Bucuzzo said no face-to-face meetings have occurred between the city and Kearsarge, much less agreements.
"There's a lot of work needs to happen ... everything's negotiable and will be spelled out in the land lease and net metering agreement," said Bucuzzo, adding that an indemnification clause was a requirement of the request for proposal.
Other councilors, including Colin LePage, spoke of how the city missed an opportunity under the first SREC program, the incentive package was much better for the city.
"This has been going on for a long time. They just seem to die on the vine," said LePage, the council's top green energy advocate. "The longer this takes, the less advantageous it is to the city. $3.6 million over 20 years sounds good, but two years ago (with SunEdison), we were at $6.3 million possibly more.
"We haven't even received a lot of information to act on," LePage continued. "I'm all for less talk and more action."
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