City seeks solar firms

ELLSWORTH — The city put out a request for proposals (RFP) on Nov. 7, officially kicking off the process of looking for a firm to install solar panels at several possible sites.

Those sites include a former landfill and the rooftops of Ellsworth High School and Ellsworth Elementary-Middle School.

Proposals are due by Dec. 18, with city officials expected to choose a firm by Dec. 31. The request states that the city is looking for options to offset its purchase of roughly 5 million kilowatt hours per year.

The RFP lays out several options for where a photovoltaic array could be located, including the former landfill off Stabawl Road or the rooftops of a city-owned building, such as Ellsworth Elementary-Middle School or Ellsworth High School. The high school’s roof would likely need reshingling before panels could be put up, the RFP notes.

City officials and staff also are open to “other net metering or bill credit eligible private projects (not on Ellsworth property), such as private solar, hydroelectric, wind, etc., to satisfy the city’s electric needs,” according to the request.

Recent legislation, such as a law encouraging solar projects and aggressive clean-energy goals announced by Governor Janet Mills, rewrote the rules of solar in the state and attracted the attention of solar producers nationwide.

Under a potential power purchase agreement, the city would buy power from the farm at a fixed rate to offset municipal energy costs, but would not own or manage the solar development.

A power purchase agreement is an arrangement in which a developer would bear the brunt of costs for the design, permitting, financing and installation of a solar farm on property owned by another entity (in this case, possibly the city).

The electricity that’s generated on the site would then be sold to the city at a fixed rate, an agreement that could last for decades. However long the contract lasts, the developer would make money selling electricity and also stands to benefit from tax credits and incentives.

The company would be responsible for operating and maintaining the system. When the contract is up, the city could buy the farm, ask the developer to remove it, or extend the contract.

“Ellsworth has the land; it has the access to the grid. It’s in the right location,” said City Manager David Cole in a previous interview. “We’re kind of the vortex of the Downeast Acadia region. To the extent that private solar developers want to come in, that’s a win-win.”

Kate Cough

Kate Cough

Kate covers the city of Ellsworth, including the Ellsworth School Department and the city police beat, as well as the towns of Amherst, Aurora, Eastbrook, Great Pond, Mariaville, Osborn, Otis and Waltham. She lives in Bar Harbor and welcomes story tips and ideas. She can be reached at [email protected]

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