Deerfield approves solar array agreements

  • Residents gathered at the town offices on June 6 for a special town meeting to discuss, among other things, agreements for a new solar array and plans to move forward with renovations to the Tilton Library. RECORDER STAFF/ANDY CASTILLO

  • 901 River Road in North Deerfield is the address of proposed solar array on the property of Trew STone LLC, Tri State Materials and Warner Bros., LLC.

For the Gazette
Friday, June 17, 2016

SOUTH DEERFIELD — Solar is the newest and cleanest energy source in town.

During a special Town Meeting last week, about 80 residents voted to accept fixed tax and net-metering credit agreements for a proposed six-megawatt solar project by Lake Street Development Partners on about 200 acres of land at 901 River Road.

The agreement sets a fixed tax rate on the development over a span of 20 years, instead of it fluctuating based on a yearly valuation. The town will net a total of $1.24 million.

The tax is based on the projected value of the solar array, and not the land it will be built on, because the developer is leasing privately owned land. The tax agreement has built-in measures to protect the town, in case the developer goes out of business, or decides to drastically expand the solar array.

Supporters of the solar farm said it is a win for the town and also a win for the Lake Street Development Partners.

“Their investors are looking to keep that level throughout the 20 years,” said John Coderre, who helped negotiate the agreement. “Based on that, we negotiated a $62,000-a-year payment.”

Coderre said the fixed rate is good for the developer because it helps secure a long-term loan.

Before the meeting, everything else about the proposed solar farm had already been agreed on by both the town and the developer.

Under the net-metering agreement, the town will buy 500,000 kilowatts per year — or about half of its yearly electricity — from the solar farm at a discounted rate of 20 percent less than market cost, a rate that will not change during the contract. The developer will sell the rest of the four megawatts of energy produced by the farm to Eversource Energy.

Some debate arose during the meeting Monday about how the solar farm will affect future solar energy projects.

David Gilbert Keith, chairman of the Deerfield Energy Committee, said he was concerned that the Lake Street Development Partners’ array could eliminate the possibility of building an array on the town landfill.

“The consideration of the whole thing depends on how much you want to develop the landfill. We might be throwing that away,” he said. It “could bring in more revenue to the town.”

Coderre said this development would not prevent another solar project in the future. Instead, he said, it could be groundwork for a future project at the landfill, by the same developer.

Both motions passed easily.