An energy company based in Southborough and New Jersey has proposed a solar installation on privately owned land off Freeman Street. Selectmen are proceeding cautiously as they begin to frame a series of agreements that, if realized, will guarantee the town thousands a year in extra cash.
Anil Shibad, vice president and co-founder of Cygnus Energy, told selectmen Thursday he and members of the Valentine family have been in conversation for some time for the lease of 30 to 35 acres of their property. Agreements for solar energy farms usually are for periods of 15 to 20 years.
The project would generate between 2 and 3 megawatts of electricity, power that would use existing transformers and lines owned by Norton’s power provider, National Grid. Cygnus would sell the power generated either to National Grid or to the town.
Shibad told the board there would be several ways the town would profit from the agreement.
“You would not know what your energy costs would be three years from now with the Grid, but with us you could lock it in,” he said. He estimated the town’s energy costs could be cut by at least a third.
Shibad told selectmen he was looking for a “reasonable, fair agreement – a win/win for everyone.”
He also emphasized the success of the proposal depends on the Grid’s existing equipment, and whether or not the cost of any necessary upgrades would make the project infeasible.
For now, the board has authorized Town Manager Michael Yunits to begin talks with Town Counsel about how to craft a “PILOT” agreement – payment in lieu of taxes, a common mechanism that allows an entity to pay the town directly instead of paying property taxes.
Yunits will also give Shibad the total current energy costs for Norton, so Cygnus can begin its own calculations. The design for the solar installation on the Valentines’ land has already been completed, Shibad said.
Because of the length of time of the lease agreement, Town Meeting must approve it in October. However, Shibad said the minute the town has voted, he will get shovels in the ground. Selectmen will put the project on the fast track to make sure negotiations are completed by fall.