Lee and Lenox have temporarily pulled the plug on municipal solar energy, unable to find a company to take over their embattled solar array projects.
Attempts to replace the defunct Broadway Renewable Strategies of Boston with a suitable solar-energy firm have failed, in part, due to a state-mandated deadline, according to officials of both towns. Broadway, which unexpectedly went out of business earlier this year, had until June 30 to complete the installation to qualify for this year's round of money-saving energy credits, that would have benefited each community.
Lenox had contracts with Broadway totaling $15.7 million to erect solar panels on two town-owned parcels; Lee hired the energy firm to build solar arrays on three municipal sites costing nearly $12 million. Both projects were expected to save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in electricty costs over the next two decades.
"We really didn't find somebody good for the town," said Lee Energy Efficiency Committee Chairman Thomas Wickham. "We would have lost money on two of our sites."
Wickham was referring to the former Lee landfill and the town's wastewater treatment plant. The lone profitable town property for solar energy was several acres of open land on Stockbridge Road.
Lee and Lenox officials had hoped either e-NRG Holdings LLC of Boston or RGS Energy from Louisville Colo. could handle the solar projects, but they were unable to reach agreements with either company. Nevertheless, both communities remain bullish on municipal solar energy, with plans to revisit their solar projects.
"There's every reason to believe we'll still get solar in Lenox, this time with a stronger solar firm armed with experience," said Lenox Selectman Channing Gibson.
Lenox, at a $5.7 million cost to Broadway, was to install solar panels at the wastewater treatment plant on Crystal Street in Lenox Dale, and later at the old landfill on nearby Willow Creek Road, a separate $10 million deal yet to be concluded pending environmental studies this spring.
The first phase of the Lenox project, producing nearly 1.2 million kilowatt hours a year, would save taxpayers an estimated $355,000 by the year 2034.
The $11.8 million municipal solar project for Lee could save taxpayers a total of $880,000 over the next 20 years through energy-credit reimbursements from Western Massachusetts Electric Co. Three solar arrays on town-owned property would produce 2.9 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually.
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