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Ashfield to get 20-year solar energy discount

ASHFIELD — Once a new solar farm is up and running in Hadley, Ashfield will be able to purchase solar-generated electricity for its wastewater treatment plant and town buildings at a 27 percent discount.

Through an agreement coordinated by the Hampshire Regional Council of Governments, the Selectboard has signed a 20-year agreement with Nexamp, a solar energy producer, to serve as the “host customer” for the 2.5-megawatt solar farm.

John Murphy of the North Andover-based Nexamp, told the board that the solar farm has already been permitted and is “shovel-ready.” He added the project is eligible for state solar energy credits, provided the company can show that it supplies energy to a municipality.

The agreement completes the project’s eligibility for state credits, which makes the construction more feasible; in return, Ashfield will get discounted “coupons” for consumption of solar-generated electricity.

“Wendell and New Salem are also host communities for large projects,” Murphy said.

When asked if 100 percent of the town’s electricity needs can be discounted, Murphy said municipalities are advised to calculate that 85 percent of their electricity will qualify for the discount coupons.

The “solar net metering” program, he explained, is separate from the pricing discount that Ashfield gets, as a member of Hampshire Council of Government’s “Hampshire Power” program. Hampshire Power buys electricity at a wholesale price, passing on savings to member communities. That will still be the process when the new solar farm is online. However, Nexamp will be allowed to sell or transfer renewable energy “coupons” to its customers.

The solar energy will go into the Western Massachusetts Electric Co. grid, and the Hampshire Council will continue billing Ashfield for its energy use.

But, for every $1,000 of renewable energy used, the town would get a $270 savings, which would show up on electric bills.

Selectboard member Ron Koler tried for an even higher discount. “You’re seeking the tiniest host entity you can possibly find, because that means you’re giving away the least amount of money,” Coler told Murphy. “How tight can we squeeze you? Our job is to make the best possible deal for our citizens.”

Murphy replied that the standard discount given to host municipalities is a 21 percent discount. However, Ashfield is getting the larger discount because it is so small.

Sewer Commissioner Nancy Hoff said the commission was interested in using more renewable energy to power its plant, and they had Nexamp and the Hampshire COG to a meeting for a presentation. Hoff also attended the presentations that were made to the Selectboard.

Ann-Renee Larouche, an energy specialist with Hampshire COG, said the Council went looking for a Massachusetts-based solar developer, because the Council wanted to offer customers more alternative, locally produced energy.

Murphy did not return phone calls regarding when construction would begin in Hadley, or where the solar array there is to be built.

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at:
dbronc@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 277

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