LENOX -- After lengthy delays, the lights finally are on for the first phase of the town’s solar energy project.

At a recent session, the Selectmen voted 5-0 to ratify the contract for a solar-panel installation at the town’s wastewater treatment plant on Crystal Street in Lenox Dale.

Select Board Chairman David Roche called it "a momentous step for Lenox to move forward with renewable energy."

Voters had approved the solar project at the May 2012 annual town meeting.

"We’ve come through the process, it’s taken a long time to get here, but nothing has changed since what was presented to the town in 2012," Selectman Channing Gibson said.

"The panels have moved around maybe a little bit from where they were sited on the plan that the town saw, but basically it is the same idea and the same place without any major transformation of the site," Gibson added. He also commented that there will be less tree-cutting above the wastewater plant than originally expected.

Estimated annual savings for the town are $24,500, totaling $355,000 for the 20-year life of the contract with Boston-based Broadway Renewable Strategies, a division of Broadway Electrical Co., Inc., which specializes in solar technology.

"It’s not an insignificant figure," Roche said, "and it’s something that will help us move the town forward financially and hopefully ease some of the tax burdens on local homeowners."

"There are savings here," Gibson added, "but it’s also the right thing to do in terms of finding ways to produce power that has a low carbon footprint Š a sustainable source."

The installation, which will yield nearly 1.2 megawatts of electricity per year, also fits into Gov. Deval Patrick’s drive to add more alternative energy sources to the state’s power grid, Roche said.

Broadway will spend $5.7 million to construct the panels, which are slated to be online by June 30, interim co-Town Manager Jeffrey Vincent told The Eagle.

The second phase of the project requires a contract for installation of panels at a nearby site on the former town landfill on Willow Creek Road. But that has been delayed until pending environmental issues are resolved, including a study of vegetation at the location. Construction at the site would cost Broadway about $10 million, Vincent said.

The town is leasing the panel installations from Broadway Electrical.

The deal, approved by Jeffrey Grandchamp, the attorney hired by Lenox for the project, was a collaborative effort with Lee, said Selectman Kenneth Fowler.

Lee is moving ahead with its own solar installations through an $11.8 million contract with Broadway Electrical involving three town-owned sites.

The Lenox solar panels will produce power for Western Massachusetts Electric Co., which serves a portion of the community, including the wastewater plant and Lenox Memorial Middle and High School. National Grid serves the rest of the town.

Power produced by the installation -- more than enough to meet the needs of the wastewater plant and the high school on East Street -- will yield a credit for the town to be deducted from its electricity bill.

The project has been scaled back considerably from the original plan presented by former Town Manager Gregory Federspiel to the Select Board in October 2011. At that time, projected annual savings from a three-site installation were put at $200,000. The third site, Post Farm off East Street, was removed from the overall plan after environmental advocates and sports enthusiasts objected.

To contact Clarence Fanto:
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