Energy firm seeks extension on Lee, Lenox solar projects
LEE - A Boston-based energy firm wants more time to build the planned municipal solar installations in Lenox and Lee if it takes over the $17.5 million worth of projects from the original developer.
Representatives of e-NRG Holdings LLC made clear on Wednesday they will need an extra month - maybe more - beyond a June 30 deadline to complete the combined construction of solar arrays.
During a presentation before a joint meeting of Lee Energy Efficiency Committee and Lenox Solar Committee, e-NRG CEO Jim McAuliffe and Kyle Wilbur, the company's head of acquisitions, said the deadline extension at least would benefit the $11.8 million Lee project. The town has solar arrays planned for three separate municipal properties to be owned and operated by the developer.
"There is a level of comfort we'll be successful," McAuliffe said.
However, Lenox's proposed $5.7 solar array at its wastewater treatment plant would have to be downsized just to meet any extended deadline, according to company officials.
"It requires a substantial redesign," Wilbur said. "It definitely needs to be adjusted."
"I didn't hear any good news here," Lenox Selectman Ken Fowler added at the end of the 90 minute meeting at Lee Memorial Town Hall.
Lee and Lenox officials must now decide - and quickly - whether they want e-NRG to assume control of contracts the towns originally signed with Broadway Renewable Energies. The Boston firm, along with its sister business Broadway Electric Co., recently went belly up due to unknown financial difficulties.
Should Lee and Lenox go with e-NRG, the solar installations must be operating and interconnected with Western Massachusetts Electric Co. by a state-imposed June 30 deadline so the projects qualify for money-saving energy credits. If e-NRG misses the deadline - even an extension - the value of the energy credits would be less under new regulations taking effect July 1.
Any request for an extension to the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources must come from the neighboring communities, according to the company's consultant, Beth Greenblatt.
"It would be for a very, very short time, maybe to the end of July or 15 days after that," she said.
Greenblatt said DOER is aware of the situation and she expects they would be agreeable to an extension, but for how long, she wasn't sure.
Under the current contracts, Broadway was to assume all construction costs, consultant and other fees, an arrangement the towns want to continue with the replacement solar energy firm.
Lenox's contract, 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 WMECO. Three solar arrays on town-owned property would produce 2.9 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually.
The sites are on 4.5 acres of a 171-acre parcel off Stockbridge Road, the former town landfill off Woodland Road and in front of Lee's wastewater treatment plant on Route 102, which would feed power directly to that facility. The town government hopes to reduce its $414,000 municipal electrical bill paid to WMECO each year.
Gov. Deval Patrick has set a statewide goal of 1,600 megawatts produced by solar energy by 2020. So far, 425 megawatts of solar panels have been installed.
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