Town inks deal for solar facility at landfill

  • Ten-plus acres of capped former landfill off Royalston Road in Athol will be the site of a solar photovoltaic facility. STAFF PHOTO/DEBORRAH PORTER

Staff Writer
Published: 8/30/2018 10:58:54 PM
Modified: 8/30/2018 10:59:15 PM

ATHOL — S.W.E.B Development of Worcester has been awarded a contract, following successful contract negotiations, to build a solar photovoltaic facility on the capped former landfill off Royalston Road.

Following a recommendation to the selectmen by the town’s Solar RFP Evaluation Committee, the vote was unanimous.

SWEB is proposing to lease 10.41 acres of land to develop, construct, own and operate a 3.842 megawatt DC solar array there. The plan could generate more than $5 million for the town.

Town Manager Shaun Suhoski said they have just initiated discussion surrounding the terms of a lease agreement.

Ten proposals were received by the March 12 due date from Altus Power, Ameresco, Arcor/Cintrine, GE Solar, GreenStreet Power Partners, NextEra Energy, Sunpin Solar, SunRaise Development, SWEB Development and VCP d/b/a/ Verogy.

Suhoski said Beacon Integrated Solutions of Boston was engaged to assist Athol in evaluating the proposals by conducting technical and financial analyses of the offers. Beacon conducted a high-level overview of each of the 10 proposals. Suhoski said Beacon’s review focused on the reasonableness of the proposed technical designs on the parcel, whether the firm and/or its partners had proven experience constructing, operating and maintaining solar photovoltaic systems on capped landfills, and whether the firm had addressed its financial capacity and approach to financing the project.

Working with Beacon, Athol’s Solar RFP Evaluation Committee chose four firms to interview: Ameresco, GreenStreet, SunRaise and SWEB.

Athol’s Solar RFP Evaluation Committee included Suhoski, DPW Superintendent Doug Walsh, Director of Planning and Development Eric Smith and Selectboard Chairman Stephen Raymond. BOS vice chairman William Caldwell took Raymond’s seat for the finalist interviews.

Raymond said “This was an extensive process. We spent a lot of time looking at different proposals. Beth (Greenblatt) from Beacon was very good. I was comfortable with both companies, (but) I think we’ll get a better deal from SWEB.”

Following final interviews with Ameresco and SWEB, the rating of the committee members indicated a higher score for SWEB.

SWEB’s local office is in Worcester; its North American headquarters are in Nova Scotia. According to its website, SWEB is the North American subsidiary of W.E.B, an Austrian, community-owned energy transition company. W.E.B operates a total of 233 wind energy, 21 photovoltaic, and three small hydroelectric power plants throughout Europe and North America. Its established nominal output of 438 MW and the produced energy of 1,083,389 MWh enable W.E.B to provide 309.540 households with electricity.

The Solar RFP Evaluation Committee requested additional information and conducted interviews with all four firms. More information was sought and follow-up interviews were held with Ameresco and SWEB.

Suhoski said the committee “determined the SWEB team had sufficient expertise, feasible technical solution and a competitive financial offer, and thus, provided the most advantageous offer to Athol.”

The contract would involve a lease and may involve an ancillary agreement or pilot agreement, which would be brought to the board by the vendor and consultant for consideration.

Suhoski said if successful, the estimated combined property tax revenue and 25-year lease would generate greater than a $5 million benefit to the community. He suggested the proceeds would be allocated to the general fund “to ease the burden on all taxpayers” and the lease payments could be targeted toward transfer station and landfill monitoring costs, and capital program and capital stabilization fund projects (which would be discussed by the selectmen and finance committee).

Selectman William Caldwell said, “We will benefit in utilizing the landfill — more than just sitting there. We’ll get a regular funding stream from there and produce clean energy.”  

As it is a capped landfill, SWEB will be required to prepare and collaborate with Athol and file with the Mass. Department of Environmental Protection a post-closure use permit, in addition to filing local permits with the Conservation Commission and the Planning Board. SWEB will take technical and financial responsibility for all necessary information actions regarding interconnection of the solar photovoltaic array with National Grid.

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