Freeport weighs collaborative solar energy project

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FREEPORT — The town is considering a three-way collaboration with Regional School Unit 5 and the Freeport Sewer District on a joint solar project.

The council on April 24 also received an update on proposed alterations to parking in front of the South Freeport Church at 98 South Freeport Road. 

Town Manager Peter Joseph on Tuesday night told councilors he and Town Planner Donna Larson recently met with representatives from the sewer district and RSU 5 to examine the possibility of installing solar arrays to offset energy costs. Joseph said all three parties are interested in exploring how they could work together.

In a memo sent to the council, Joseph said a more wide-ranging project might generate more interest from bidders, installers and investors, which would “hopefully result in lower installation costs and/or lower energy purchase rates.”

According to Joseph, the sewer district is the furthest along in the analysis, followed by the town and the school. 

Each organization, Joseph said, “brings something different to the table.”

The sewer district has a high demand for electricity, but little available space for installation. The opposite is true for the town, which has property that could be used for ground-mounted solar arrays. RSU5 has both a high electrical demand and a lot of roof space, Joseph said. 

“As all three organizations are government organizations, I think a good case could be made for collocating arrays and making property available for long-term joint use at low or no cost,” Joseph said.

The next step in the process is to have Rich Roughgarden, an electrical engineer with Maine Solar Engineering, conduct an analysis of available sites and project design, to include permitting with Central Maine Power, with the intent of producing a design and specifications to attract “competitive bidders.”

Joseph said a “very conservative” cost estimate for the design package is $20,000, but he anticipates the entities will pay closer to $5,000 each for the study. In order to get a more precise quote, all three organizations are providing Roughgarden with two years’ worth of electrical use data and a list of potential array locations.

Joseph said he expects the funds to be allocated from the town’s energy savings reserve fund, which has a balance of about $29,000.

Parking

Town Engineer Adam Bliss and Traffic and Parking Committee Chairman Gary Profenno were present at Tuesday’s meeting to update the council on a draft plan to widen the gravel berm on South Freeport Road by four feet to the edge of the right of way during a scheduled repaving project this summer. 

According to Bliss, representatives from the church approached the Traffic and Parking Committee, since South Freeport Road is a town right of way.

The intent is to reduce potential accidents for individuals coming in and out of their cars and for cyclists and pedestrians. According to the proposal, driver’s side car doors are often opened into the paved roadway. 

There are 11 parallel parking spaces about 9 feet wide lining the street in front of the church. Bliss noted there would be no change in the number of parking on the street, nor would there be a change to current parking restrictions.

The committee’s proposal also asks the council to consider an amendment to town zoning to allow temporary on-site church parking for handicapped vehicles in front of the church and in three spots across the street, around the French school’s “circular drive.” The spots would be designated for handicapped vehicles during church services, including Saturdays from 5 p.m. to midnight and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

If it is approved by the Town Council, the work would be done this summer.

Joseph said the Traffic and Safety Committee will hold a public hearing on the proposal in the next few weeks. It will likely then go to the Ordinance Committee for review before coming back to the council in the next few months.

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

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