Proposed Solar Development Could Save Bourne Millions In Electricity Expenses Over Time

Blue Wave Capital, a Boston-based developer of solar energy projects in Massachusetts, South Africa, and the Caribbean, went before selectmen Tuesday with a proposal it said could save the town from $3.6 million to $4.8 million in energy costs over the life of a 20-year contract.

The solar energy proposal comes hard on the heels of Future Generation Wind’s recent wind energy proposal, brought before selectmen last week.

John DeVillars of Blue Wave Capital told selectmen that his company does not want to site an array in Bourne. It has been working to develop five sites in the NStar and southeastern Massachusetts area, one of which is in Plymouth.

Blue Wave Capital, he said, will design, construct, and operate a 2.5-megawatt solar power generating facility. It simply wants to sell the resulting power to the town under a 20-year net metering credit purchase agreement.

Mr. DeVillars said Blue Wave has the experience to oversee all stages of solar projects, including the negotiation of interconnection and power purchase agreements.

Further, he said, the company already has financing partners, including ConEdison Solutions, its partner for projects in New Bedford and Taunton, and Smart Energy Capital, working with it in Amherst and Athol.

Blue Wave, Mr. DeVillars said, is offering to sell power to Bourne for a fixed rate of 10.75 cents per kilowatt hour over 20 years or a variable rate of 9.5 cents per kWh, with an annual inflation adjustment rate of 1.5 percent.

The current market price is 14 cents per kWh.

Such an agreement, he said, would dramatically reduce the town’s electricity costs, providing a savings of $143,000 in the first year of the agreement, alone.
The savings the town would receive over the life of the contract would depend on how much electricity costs rise. If the cost of producing electricity goes up 2 percent, the town would save about $3.6 million over 20 years. If costs go up 3 percent, the town could save up to $4.8 million over that time.

Mr. DeVillars provided selectmen with a graph showing how the price of electricity has been rising in the northeast since 1980, saying that it was unlikely that the cost would fall below the price Bourne would contract to pay.

Aside from being able to provide for the town’s electrical needs at a discounted cost, Blue Wave’s efforts will have environmental benefits, Mr. DeVillars said, eliminating some 2.5 tons of carbon dioxide.

He also provided selectmen with information as to the proposed site on Raffaele Road in Plymouth, which Blue Wave expects to be commissioned by December of this year.

That project, according to Blue Wave, is expected to generate more than 150 million kWh over 20 years, some 60 million of which could be used for the benefit of Bourne.

After providing selectmen with a written overview of the regulations governing solar energy in Massachusetts, including an explanation of net metering and Solar Renewable Energy Certificates, Mr. DeVillars said investors in Blue Wave’s project would have realized all of their tax incentives by the end of the 5th year of that solar project’s operation.

Town Administrator Thomas M. Guerino asked if those investors, who would still have ownership of the project for at least the next 15 years, would upgrade the solar facility as technology allows.

Mr. DeVillars said the project would still be able to create the energy needed to power Bourne. Changing the technology, he said, would not likely be worth the cost of those changes.

Asked about minimizing the risk to Bourne if the cost of electricity falls due to new technology or for other reasons, Mr. DeVillars said such provisions could be part of a power purchase agreement.

He said he provided a copy of his company’s generic power purchase agreement to the town, and Mr. Guerino said it had already been forwarded to town counsel for review.

Mr. DeVillars said that, in talking to the town’s Energy Advisory Committee members, he understood that Bourne did not want to enter into contracts to buy all of its energy.

He said he, too, thinks a municipality should not agree to buy more than 80 percents of its anticipated needs. That way, if energy efficiency measures lower the amount of electricity the town needs, the municipality cannot end up paying on a contract for power that it does not need.

Selectman John A. Ford, Jr. asked whether it might be possible to buy one-third of its power from one source, one-third from another, and keep one-third of its energy purchases under its own control.

Mr. DeVillars said that could probably be done.

Selectmen have asked Mr. Guerino, Facilities Manager Jonathan R. Nelson, and Energy Coordinator Richard Elrick to generate a report comparing the advantages and disadvantages of contracting with Blue Wave Capital to buy its solar energy or with Future Generation Wind to purchase its turbine-produced power.

Selectmen want help in deciding whether it would be to the town’s advantage to buy from one or the other of the companies, or from some combination of the two.
Selectman Linda M. Zuern said she would also like to hear from members of the energy advisory committee. She is most interested, she said, in learning the reason why energy committee members chose to zero in on the proposals of those two companies in lieu of others.

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