On August 15, 2018

Killington Select Board hesitates on solar

By Julia Purdy

KILLINGTON—Obstacles are multiplying for the town’s installation of 15 solar trackers.

The Killington Select Board discussed the actual cost per kilowatt-hour; the wisdom of taking on long-term debt in which the savings in electric bills would not be felt for some time; and whether the actual usage justified the up-front costs at its regular meeting Aug. 6.

The proposed lease is for 20 years with the option to buy the system every five years. Monthly payments would be $2,500 for 175,000 kilowatts each month in five-year allotments. According to Bob Vittengl, a sales representative from Apex Solar, the figures get “trued-up” every five years. “If it doesn’t produce that, then they pay you. If it overproduces, you pay them.” The production numbers are intentionally conservative, he added.

The lack of a accurate information from AllEarth of Williston was a sticking point.

Select Board member Jim Haff, who has been skeptical of the arrangement, had asked for a monthly usage printout and received a National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) spreadsheet with a New Jersey zip code and coordinates.

Vittengl said he had not seen that report. He offered to run a new report on the spot with his computer.

Haff, however, said he had reentered his own data into the NREL form with the correct zip code and specifications for the proposed system and came up with 25,000 kilowatts fewer than the contract states, resulting in overpayments until year six, which would be paid back “probably with no interest.”

Haff noted that for his own property, he got projections from three different providers that told him specifically how many kWh could be produced per month, based on actual on-site conditions.​

Select Board member Patty McGrath noted that Killington Resort, which installed the same system, said their predictions and tracking have been very close to what they expected.

She agreed that the project would be a sensible “investment in our future” without a big initial outlay.

Aesthetic impact is another consideration.

The agreement with AllEarth would install 15 solar trackers on River Road to power town buildings exclusively.

Some residents object to siting too close to the old white library building and the road at the town garage.

Finally, Select Board chair Steve Finneron called the question, saying, “We’re short on information.”

The upshot was twofold.

First, the board requested to see AllEarth’s calculations for each system in the contract and, second, members would submit their remaining questions for the Aug. 20 agenda, when the board is scheduled to meet again.

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