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Orange landfill solar farm gets board OK

ORANGE — After months of work, an ad hoc committee of volunteers completed negotiations to build a solar farm at the town’s landfill. And selectmen have sealed the deal that will generate clean energy and up to $45,000 in savings for the town each year.

Selectmen credited the committee with its tenacity in continuing the negotiations despite changing personnel at the Borrego Solar company, and the loss of grant funding for a consultant who assisted with initial negotiations.

“It was a real team effort,” said Pat Larson. Henry Oertel, Bob Michaud, Diane Nassif, Dianne Salcedo were also members of the group.

Borego will lease 3.5 acres at the Jones Street transfer station, installing solar panels that will generate 376 kilowatts of power, enough to power 65 to 70 homes each year. This project is much smaller than the two solar installations under construction on land owned by dairy farmer George Hunt. The Hunt project will generate 5 to 6 megawatts, enough to power 1,500 homes.

Borrego representative Jared Connell said he expects the project to be in operation by the end of next year.

The town will purchase all the electricity produced at the site to power town and school properties.

Orange will pay Borrego 8 cents for every kilowatt-hour, then turn over all electricity produced to National Grid, which will distribute it to customers. National Grid will then credit Orange 14 cents for every kilowatt-hour the town uses. The deal is part of the state’s Net Metering Credit Program designed to jump start such partnerships across the state.

While the price Orange pays Borrego is fixed at 8 cents, the net metering credit may vary over time. If the credit price falls below the purchase price, “the town could sustain losses,” the committee stated in its report to selectmen. “However, we have studied the situation very carefully and we believe this is a very improbable event.”

A handful of other towns in Massachusetts have successfully installed similar solar farm installations at their landfill sites. Three of these — Easthampton, Mashpee and Hopkinton — are operated by Borrego. Committee members visited the Easthampton project as part of their research for the project. The positive reports of town officials there swayed their decision to move forward in their negotiations with Borrego.

At the end of the 20-year contract, Orange can elect to extend or pull out of the deal with Borrego. At the end of the lease period, the company is responsible for removing the panels and returning the land to its original condition.

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