Both Lynch solar panel articles approved by Town Meeting
By Alison Swallow Nov. 14, 2023
Town meeting voted Monday night under two separate articles to allow the town to either purchase the Lynch school solar panels outright or enter into an agreement to lease the equipment. The Select Board will decide which option is best for the town after the construction bids come in for the new school at the end of November.
Article 18, which passed 147 to 4 would authorize the town to appropriate a total of $3,500,000—$300,000 from the town’s free cash and $3,200,000 to be borrowed—to purchase the solar equipment outright. The money to pay off the borrowing would come out of the operating budget, and would not require an override. Presenting on behalf of the Select Board, member Michelle Prior said that originally the town had assumed it would enter into a power purchase agreement, or PPA, with a solar provider, as it had done with Vinson-Owen and Winchester High School.
She said that with the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, the federal government now gives tax credits to municipalities for solar arrays if they are owned and operated by the town. After completing a financial analysis with an outside consultant, the town determined that although it would be a higher cost up front to purchase the equipment, the town would save more money year over year than with a PPA.
In addition to receiving the tax credits that would have otherwise gone to the provider, the town also avoids having to purchase energy back from the provider and receives a discount on the town’s energy bill for any excess energy that the town sells back to the grid. Further, the amount borrowed would be fixed over a finite period of time, whereas a PPA would be subject to fluctuating energy costs.
In the event that the purchasing costs come in higher than anticipated, the Select Board also presented Article 19 to allow the town to enter into a PPA instead. This gives the Select Board flexibility to make the best financial decision for the town without having to come back to town meeting, which doesn’t convene again until April. Article 19 passed 125 to 30, with the finance committee voting 7 to 6 in favor of the article on the floor of town meeting. Originally, they had voted 12-0 in favor of Article 19, but only in the case that Article 18 didn’t pass. Following the successful passage of Article 18, they changed their vote to 7-6. Chair John Miller said that they preferred the purchase option because the costs would be fixed and known up front, which allows for better budgeting.
Alison Swallow is a Precinct 8 town meeting member.
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