LEE -- A solar energy project that could save taxpayers more than $1.5 million is finally expected to be underway by summer's end, according to town officials and the developer.

Broadway Electrical plans to install three solar arrays on town-owned property: one in the old landfill, another in front of the wastewater treatment plant on Route 102, and one on three acres of a 171-acre parcel off Stockbridge Road.

The Boston-based company anticipates construction to begin once Broadway, the town and Western Massachusetts Electric Co. have reached agreement on hooking up the solar arrays to the WMECO system. The nearly year-long negotiations began after Lee officially hired Broadway for the project last August after the annual town meeting endorsed the project in May 2012.

"We're moving in the right direction," said John Gallagher, the company's operations manager.

"I'd like all agreements in place by Sept. 1," said Thomas Wickham, the chairman of Lee's Energy Efficiency Committee.

WMECO spokeswoman Priscilla Ress says the utility is prepared to help Lee move forward with its municipal solar project.

"The electrical interconnection requirements have been ironed out," Ress said. "Now it's just a matter of making sure the contact information contained in the paperwork is correct and ready to be signed."

The plan calls for Broadway to spend $11.8 million to construct, own and maintain the three solar arrays on town property. The solar panels are expected to generate three megawatts of electricity that will be sold to the town to power all its municipal buildings. Broadway is the same firm looking to build a $16.7 million municipal solar energy project in Lenox.

The project could result in a $65,000 savings the first year and $1.57 million for the life of the town's pending 20-year purchase agreement with Broadway, town and Broadway officials have said.

Town officials are looking to reduce the $414,000 annual electric bill Lee pays to Western Massachusetts Electric Co. The two public schools and wastewater treatment plant account for two-thirds of those costs.

Pending final negotiations with Broadway, the company would initially sell the electricity to the town at 7.8 cents per kilowatt hour, gradually increasing to 10.8 cent during the 20-year period, Wickham said.

To reach Dick Lindsay:
rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6233.