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Williamstown Welcomes Solar Array At Landfill
By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff
02:25AM / Wednesday, November 29, 2017
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The photovoltaic array will provide power to the town's buildings, streetlights, and the first district. It has already generated 31,000 kilowatt-hours.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Even as they face the shortest days of the year, Williamstown residents had a ray of sunshine this month.
 
"As of Friday, Nov. 17, the landfill solar installation went live," Town Manager Jason Hoch told the Board of Selectmen on Monday evening. "It's connected and it is generating power."
 
How much power? According to a monitoring site provided to the town by its partners, the 19-megawatt facility on the capped landfill has put out nearly 31,000 kilowatt-hours in its brief lifetime, enough to offset 2,700 gallons of gasoline or run a search engine data center for one day.
 
For Williamstown residents, the energy credits generated by the site will pay for power to municipal buildings, the town's fire district, streetlights and the Mount Greylock Regional School District.
 
Williams College helped finance the project — begun in 2014 — with the help of Oklahoma-based Firstar Bank. Although Williams will not reap a financial benefit from its investment, it "aligns with Williams' goals to support local and regional renewable energy projects," according to a Monday news release from the college.
 
EOS Ventures of Hancock served as a consultant on the project, and Great Barrington's APIS Energy oversaw construction of the Simonds Road facility.
 
“We used as much local labor as possible,” APIS' Seth Ginsberg said. “That was very important to the college. This was a commercial venture that will benefit the town with clean, discounted power, and brought jobs to local small businesses.”
 
Although the town's fiscal year 2018 plan was built — conservatively — without anticipation of savings from the solar project, some savings will be realized from now through June 30. Hoch said Monday those funds will go into the town's free cash account,
 
Energy was a running theme at Monday's Board of Selectmen meeting.
 
Selectwoman Anne O'Connor noted that the town recently began a new contract under the multi-community electrical aggregation plan the town joined in 2014.
 
“It's 100 percent wind renewable energy credits,” O'Connor said. 
 
“I think we ended up in a flat rate for three years, and I feel like [the rate] didn't move a whole lot,” Chairman Hugh Daley said, referring to the change between the new agreement reached through Colonial Power Group and the previous contract, which included hydroelectric power as part of the aggregation's "green" portfolio.
 
The board took just a couple of actions on Monday, and one of them involved the power source that will heat the interior of the Mount Greylock Regional School as its addition/renovation project is completed throughout the winter of 2017-18.
 
Kyle George of H.A. George went before the Selectmen to ask for an amendment to the school district's permit for storage of liquid propane on the Cold Spring Road campus.
 
"We're asking for an extra 4,000 gallons of storage for temporary storage,” George said. "There will be [permanent] tanks on site that we were hoping to use, but, unfortunately, where they are, they don't work for the project, so we had to bring in more temporary storage."
 
The amendment approved Monday brings total storage on the site to 10,000 gallons, George said. When the project is completed in April, he said he believed the school would need about 4,000 gallons of underground storage to fuel its cafeteria and domestic hot water needs.
 
And in one other energy-related note, the Selectmen accepted a report from resident Anne Skinner, who serves as the town's representative to the community advisory board overseeing the decommissioning of the former Rowe nuclear plant.
 
Skinner said she is interested in stepping down from the position, which generally involves attending one meeting per year, and Selectman Jeffrey Thomas used Monday's meeting as an opportunity to “advertise” for a replacement during the telecast on the town's community access television station, WilliNet.
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