BENNINGTON, Vt. -- A developer hoping to build a solar facility on a former landfill now has a more formal agreement in place with the town to begin formulating a final plan.
The Select Board unanimously agreed recently to sign a letter of intent with Encore Redevelopment. The Burling ton-based company wants to construct the facility on a capped landfill on Houghton Lane. The company first approached the town with the plan in 2010, but it proved too costly at the time and was abandoned.
But in August, the company revived the idea and the Select Board gave town officials the authority to further explore the plan. A presentation shared with the Select Board in August said new legislation and recent decreases in solar panel pricing had "fundamentally changed the community scale renewable energy landscape."
Town Manager Stuart A. Hurd said the letter of intent will allow Encore Redevelop ment to complete its financial analysis to make sure the finances add up. The company must be able to mount solar panels without penetrating the soil cap over the landfill, he said. Bennington Planning Director Daniel Monks said the company would be using about five acres of town-owned land. A lease will be negotiated and Encore will pay the town for using the land, he said.
"The number will be in the several thousands for a piece of land that’s a capped landfill," Monks said. "It would be difficult to find a user for that land, other
Encore will receive credit for the electricity it produces from the solar panels, but must find an end-user that uses them. Encore will sell the credits to the town for a discounted rate, allowing the town to lower its electricity bill.
"We’ll get a discount, a huge discount, significant discount, on our electric payment and it will most likely be offset against the waste water treatment plant because that’s the one that uses the most electricity," Monks said.
The town will have the option of purchasing the solar facility after 10 years, or it could automatically transfer to the town after 20 years. The panels have a life expectancy of 25 to 30 years, Monks said. The town would save even more on its electric bill if the panels are still in working condition after 20 years, he said.
"The details of the lease have to be worked out, but we will probably have in there that they have to remove it or we will keep it, at our discretion," he said. "The details of the lease haven’t been worked out, but that’s something I would expect to be in there."
Monks said the letter of intent does not mean either side must follow through on the deal.
"What it does is gives both parties comfort that each side is serious about moving forward. They’re going to do their due diligence so that that they can install what they want to install, make sure that they can connect to the grid Š and make sure that their financing is in place," he said.
That process is expected to take months, Hurd said. "I suspect that you won’t see any kind of construction until next spring," he said.