Old landfill on Belchertown Road
After more than a year since Town Meeting overwhelmingly gave him the authority to do so, Town Manager John Musante brought before the Select Board a 31 page draft of the "Solar Power Services Agreement" he negotiated for electric energy created at a solar farm situated on the old landfill.
The 25 year deal calls for Amherst to lock in electric rates at 6.75 cents per kilowatt hour from the energy produced at up to a 4.25 megawatt operation, with total savings estimated at between $1.8 million and $6.8 million over the life of the contract. Original value estimates first floated over a year ago were as high as $1 million annually for thirty years in electricity savings and property taxes paid.
The state is proposing solar farms be exempt from paying local property taxes thus the $15 million operation that would have paid $300,000 annually to Amherst will, like some of our academic and cultural institutions, pay nothing.
Musante also disclosed that he was in negotiations with another provider of solar energy from a site located outside of Amherst (Easthampton?). This secondary source could reduce the need for such a large solar array footprint proposed for the old landfill, which could somewhat appease concerned neighbors.
Town Manager John Musante, Stephanie O'Keeffe Select Board Chair
The Select Board did not take a formal vote on the agreement, but Chair Stephanie O'Keeffe told the town manager he had their "full support."
The Solar Farm still has a number of significant hurdles to clear before any energy starts to flow: A lawsuit brought by immediate neighbors of the proposed solar farm is still active, the Amherst Zoning Board of Appeals must also support the project unanimously and the question of a "threatened species", the Grasshopper Sparrow, means a National Heritage Species permit must be secured.
But tonight's presentation certainly demonstrated there's light at the end of the tunnel.
Amherst Solar Power Agreement