South Portland councilors say yes to solar power

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SOUTH PORTLAND — A new power source for one city building, new tenants for another, and initial funding for a proposed public works depot were approved by councilors Monday.

By a unanimous 6-0 vote, with Councilor Tom Blake not in attendance, the City Council approved the creation of nonprofit SoPo Solar LLC to sell solar power generated on the roof of the city Planning and Development Department at 496 Ocean St.

The panels will be installed at no cost by Portland-based Revision Energy. The company will also create the nonprofit company and sell electricity to the city at 2 cents per kilowatt hour less than current market rates for the next six years.

The city has the option to buy the system for $20,000 in seven years, or continue to buy power from SoPo Solar. Corporation Counsel Sally Daggett estimated the purchase price is about a quarter of the market value.

The arrangement allows Revision to gain federal and state tax credits for installing the system, but the company needs to have the system operating by the end of the year to get all available tax credits, according to Revision Director of Financing Steven Hinchman.

Solar power conversions were first discussed at an Aug. 27 council workshop, where councilors wanted to determine future plans for the Planning Office property, and which buildings were best suited for the power purchase agreements.

The office was once the Hamlin School. Gailey said it looks as though city government would have to continue use the building and grounds for the next eight to 10 years. A study by Criterium Engineers found the roof in good enough shape for installation of panels and not likely in need of extensive repairs in the next decade.

In other business:

• A three-year lease allowing the South Portland Land Trust use of an unused building in Mill Creek Park, near the Veterans Green, was approved for $1 annually. The building formerly housed the Maine Military Museum, which moved in 2011.

“We are really excited about the prospect of having a home, in part to meet and have a presence in the community,” land trust President Carter Scott said.

The city will also expand parking at the area next spring to accommodate the trust and visitors to the adjacent Service Monument dedicated to South Portland military veterans.

• With Councilors Alan Livingston and Rosemarie De Angelis opposed, a reserve account of $500,000 from previously undesignated surplus was established to offset future costs for a new public works facility tentatively planned for Highland Avenue.

The facility could cost more than $20 million in principal and interest on a 20-year bond voters could consider in the November 2013 elections.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.