By Rich Eldred
BREWSTER: The twin wind turbines once proposed for Freeman’s Way in Brewster remain only a dream, but town-owned land is about to host the largest solar project on the Outer Cape.
“At the end of this week it’s essentially complete,” declared Luke Hinkle, president of MyGenerationEnergy.
Hinkle’s company has finished installing 1,440 solar panels manufactured by Sharp Electronics of Memphis, Tenn. on three-acres of land next to the water department in Commerce Park, just off Freeman’s Way.
“It’s one of the most innovative concepts for the production of renewable energy,” observed Jillian Douglass, assistant town manager and member of the energy committee “It makes it accessible to regular folks. Anybody can buy into it, even if the don’t have a site at their home they can participate in solar energy by purchasing a share.”
Construction started just after Thanksgiving.
“We still have to finish the wiring and get it inspected,” Hinkle said. “It’s on schedule to turn on in February.”
The company has been selling “SunShares” that purchase the electricity produced by 28 solar panels for $5,000 each. Hinkle said each share would be worth at least $6,400 in electric credits ($106 a month) over the next five years. That can be used to offset homeowners’ or businesses’ electric bills, or if the bill is less than the credits they can be used after the five years as well.
“They’re carried forward indefinitely,” Hinkle said.
The 28 panels will produce about 9,000-kilowatt hours worth of electricity a year. Each SunShare comprises 2 percent of the energy produced and they’ve sold about half of the 50 shares so far. The electricity will be metered into the grid and NStar will distribute the credits as the cooperative instructs it.
“This was the first ground-mounted grid in Brewster,” Douglass declared. “We liked the idea of having the community invest in solar and this was a different way to do that. Having the benefits come back to the individual is a nice concept.”
MyGeneration hopes to sell $250,000 worth of sun shares to help finance the $1.5-million dollar project. They’ll also sell renewable energy credits benefit from tax incentives. If the tax laws are altered by a new regime it won’t matter.
“If politics change and you’re in – you’re in,” Hinkle said.
At the end of five years the cooperative (comprised of sun share holders) can decide whether to renew the contract or not. The panels have a life expectancy of 25-years and the lease with Brewster is for 20 years with to optional five-year renewals.
The panels sit on concrete posts in an old sand pit across from the Captains Course driving range.
“The concrete is made in Yarmouth, the steel from Hingham,” Hinkle noted.
MyGeneration will pay Brewster about $11,500 in 2012 and that will creep up to $18,844 by 2032. Brewster received one other response to their request for proposals: from Project Navigator, a multi-National cooperation. That was for a power purchase lease, not what the town wanted.
Brewster has another project on tap: Cape and Vineyard Electric Cooperative will build a solar array atop the landfill at the transfer station. That is permitted and construction could start this spring. The CVEC project has a 1,219-kilowatt capacity compared with MyGeneration’s 346.
MyGeneration, which is based in Brewster, has other projects on tap for 2012, including 10,000 panels planned for just north of the Barnstable Airport.