Town of Framingham Signs Agreement for Shoppers World Solar Project (Metro West Daily News) – by Jim Haddadin

MetroWest

FRAMINGHAM — Energy generated by a new solar array at Shoppers World will allow the town to buy electricity at a discounted rate for up to two decades.
Selectmen last week executed a series of agreements with Altus Power, which plans to operate solar panels at the 1 Worcester Road property.
The Connecticut-based renewable energy company will receive net metering credits for any excess energy it feeds into the power grid. The company then plans to sell its credits to the town for a 20 percent discount, allowing Framingham to purchase energy more cheaply.
Explaining the concept Tuesday, Chief Financial Officer Mary Ellen Kelley likened the credits to discounts available on Groupon, the e-commerce site.
“We’re buying $100 worth of energy payment for $80,” she said, using hypothetical numbers to illustrate the concept.
To qualify for the discount, Framingham agreed to act as the “host” for the project. While the solar panels will be physically located on the westernmost part of the Shoppers World property, Kelley said partnering with a municipality allows Altus to avoid a state cap on private net metering projects, which has stymied other companies.
Town Meeting voters approved the partnership earlier this year, paving the way for selectmen on Tuesday to approve a net metering credit sales agreement with Altus Power. Kelley said the town’s lawyer reviewed the deal, which provides a more generous discount than a similar agreement the town reached previously with Framingham Salvage. The town buys credits from the salvage company at a 15 percent discount, she said.
The new contract “mirrors a number of other community agreements that Altus Power has,” and provides the same 20 percent discount other towns have received, Kelley said.
Altus will operate at least $1.9 million worth of solar panels and other equipment at 1 Worcester Road, according to exhibits attached to one of the company’s legal agreements with the town.
Selectmen also executed a separate deal that allows Altus to provide annual payments of close to $43,000 to the town rather than paying personal property taxes on its gear. The payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT, agreement applies only to solar equipment and excludes buildings and real estate.
Fixing the cost up front allows Altus to better predict project costs, making it easier for the company to apply for financing, Kelley said. In the event the power company defaults on the project, the town will receive up to $100,771, based on how many years have elapsed since the agreement was executed.
The town previously OK’d similar PILOT agreements for solar energy installations with the state Department of Transportation and Adesa Auction Boston, which operates solar panels at 63 Western Ave., Kelley said.