NORTH ADAMS -- A deal that would have put 4.4 megawatts of photovoltaic arrays across four sites in the city has been called off and local officials are preparing to issue a new Request for Proposals from solar developers by July 9.
"We had a great relationship with BlueWave Capital and its principle partners. The permitting was under way and we were in the loop with the grid application process," Mayor Richard J. Alcombright said Wednesday. "Then two months ago, we received a call [from BlueWave] saying there had been a change in the pricing for the Solar Renewable Energy Credits. The values had come way down. We also had some changes to the plans. We originally had four sites that we were going to develop. Two of those sites were downsized and another was abandoned."
Like most solar developers, BlueWave would sell the SRECs -- credits received from the state for every 1,000 kilowatt hours produced -- to finance the project.
"A 1.2 megawatt array planned for the former wastewater treatment plant site had to be scaled back because we found a water main that was running through the site," he said. "The 1.2 megawatt array at the [Harriman & West] airport had to be scaled back because of the ongoing taxi way improvements."
In addition, a 200,000 kilowatt array planned for the roof of Drury High School had to be abandoned when an extended warranty for the roof could not be secured. A planned 1.8 megawatt array for the
The changes to the size of the project -- now 3.8 megawatts -- and the drop in SREC values began to change the power purchase price structure for the city, which still needs 4.3 megawatts of power produced to meet its needs.
"It became very complicated," Alcombright said. "BlueWave needed another source of funding and they were able to secure World of New Market credits, which was fine. They had a pool of $20 million credits to work with, but could only commit $2 million per project. They came to us and asked if we could subdivide the landfill into four parcels, giving it four addresses and pushing the project number from three to six projects."
However, the city wasn't able to subdivide the land -- based on its own zoning laws -- in addition to the landfill not having an address.
"If we proceeded without this step, our savings would decrease about 15 percent to 20 percent per year," Alcombright said. "It wasn't what we had planned for."
Original estimates showed the city saving $11 million over the course of 20 years. The city stood to lose between $1.65 million to $2.2 million in savings over the lifetime of the project.
"The only way to comeback from that was to subdivide or buy the rest of our power from another privately-developed solar project," the mayor said. "The problem with the project they proposed to us was that to my knowledge that the project had not been executed. None of the permitting had been completed. None of the agreements with the town had been finalized. I began to question what would happen if the project did not go through or if the project wasn't completed when ours came online."
Alcombright added, "Blue Wave came up with plans, which, to me, were not solutions. A sure thing became speculative. To see this go away was gut-wrenching. It was a difficult decision, but one I believe that is in the best interest of the city."
In addition, the city's solar consultant, Bob Patterson, felt strongly that the city's project is still viable and that other offers would be made.
"I just signed off on the new Request for Proposals, which we hope to have issued by July 9," Alcombright said. "We hoping to have the responses back and the selection made by the end of August. We hope to jump right back into the process. We're not giving up."