FRANCONIA — A 2.3 megawatt solar array is officially up and running in town, providing a source of revenue to the community and clean energy to residents of Chelmsford. “We’re excited to have turned what was essentially wasted land into a clean, productive, revenue-generating asset for our town,” said Selectman Robert O’Keefe in a press release.
The solar array has been operating since last month, however officials from the company didn’t formally announce it until Tuesday. The 30-acre, ground-mounted installation is located next to the town’s salvage yard on what used to be a sand pit. It is expected to provide the town with $56,000 annually over the next 20 years as part of a payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT agreement, according to officials. The land is owned by the company.
While the array wasn’t connected until recently, the town has been receiving payments since August 2013. At the annual town meeting, residents voted to use the money for several capital projects, including accessibility upgrades to Beals Memorial Library. Some of the funds are also slated to go into the town’s stabilization account.
The solar array was designed and installed by Nexamp, a Boston-based company/energy provider that has completed solar projects throughout the state. “They came in with the vision, plan and capabilities to make it happen when other developers who were offered similar opportunities could not get the projects off the ground. They were able to identify and resolve potential challenges in advance so that implementation went smoothly,” said Mr. O’Keefe in a press release.
While Toy Town will benefit financially from the project, residents and businesses will not be using the energy it produces. Instead, the energy will be used in the Chelmsford and North Chelmsford Water District, according to the release. Town Manager James Kreidler said when the town chose to pass on purchasing the power, it had already entered into an agreement with Axio, a different solar company, to buy power from a solar farm that would be located on the town’s capped landfill for the price of a penny per kilowatt hour. Officials believed that solar farm would be constructed by the time the NexAmp happened. However, when Axio was bought by SunEdison, the project stalled.