Poolesville residents debate solar plan -- Gazette.Net



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This story was corrected at 6:15 p.m. on July 22, 2013. An explanation follows the story.

After two years of discussion, it’s still unclear whether Poolesville’s plans to build a collection of solar panels to help provide energy to the town will have a bright future.

Residents debated the merits of the plan at a meeting of the town’s commissioners Monday night, which attracted about 20 people.

James Glazier, who lives next to the 6-acre parcel of land beside the town’s wastewater treatment plant where the solar array would be built, said he’s worried about the aesthetics of the project and how it would affect the value of his property on Spates Hill Road if he ever decides to sell it.

“I just don’t feel like I know what I’ll be looking at,” he said.

Despite some concerns that the solar panels in the array would lose some of their effectiveness over the expected 20-year length of the agreement, Poolesville resident Mark Prebilic said he’s had solar panels on his home for 13 years and hasn’t noticed any decline in their performance.

Prebilic said he didn’t know why the town was debating whether to go ahead with the project.

“Quite frankly, I think you’re over-thinking this whole thing,” he said.

The town has been considering the idea for about two years, since the state passed a law to let local governments aggregate how much electricity they use and enter into agreements to purchase that power from other sources, town attorney Jack Gullo said.

The town sent out a request for proposals for the construction of a complex of solar panels to provide electricity for town facilities, and had presentations from two or three companies before settling on the Rockville-based Standard Solar, he said.

But the town’s negotiations with a third party that would have financed the project fell apart around the end of last year.

Then, early in 2013, Standard Solar told the town a new company was interested in the project and negotiations have begun with that company, although Gullo said the two sides still have some work to do to come to a finished deal.

“It’s a much better deal than before, but we’re not signing anything [yet],” he said.

Resident George Motto, who opposes the solar project, gave a presentation to the commissioners urging them to consider buying a microturbine, which Motto said would provide a cheaper and more reliable source of energy.

The area where the solar array would go is a nearly pristine area that is home to Canada geese, herons and sometimes eagles, and the town would have to chop down trees to make room for the solar panels, he said.

“In the process of trying to do something green, we are destroying green,” Motto said.

Town Manager Wade Yost said about two acres of trees would be removed to make room for the solar panels.

A Wisconsin company in Motto’s presentation used methane gas from the town’s wastewater treatment plant to run the turbines, but

Yost said Poolesville’s wastewater plant isn’t designed to capture that gas.

Resident Dan Savino said that if the town’s plant could produce the type of gas needed to run the turbines, he would be very enthusiastic about it.

But since it can’t, the town would have to buy fuel to run the turbines and create power, making the technology less attractive, he said.

Jim Brown, president of the town’s Board of Commissioners, thanked the residents who came out to the meeting for their opinions.

But because there is no agreement yet, the town isn’t in a position to move forward on the issues, he said.

rmarshall@gazette.net

An earlier version of this story incorrectly quoted George Motto on his ideas for obtaining a microturbine and for clearing trees to make room for solar panels.