Amesbury brought its second solar RFP for its Titcomb Pit landfill to BL's last solar development event and drew historic interest.
As BL covered previously, Amesbury, Massachusetts posted a RFP notice on BL in June to re-advertise a project to develop solar energy on one of its landfills. The Titcomb landfill site, a closed and capped Waste Management landfill, had been purchased by Amesbury and intended for recreational use. And while the original plans for playing fields stalled, solar emerged as an opportunity following the successful development of another landfill in Amesbury for solar power production.
After a RFP was issued for the Titcomb Pit site, SunEdison was awarded the project in 2014 with a plan to build a 14.5-acre, 3.7-megawatt solar array, but it quickly died when SunEdison declared bankruptcy soon thereafter. It took some time to reboot the project, but Amesbury put out a second RFP in the summer of 2017, which is brought to BL's solar energy development event in Chicago.
Almost 40 companies expressed interest in the project, according to Energy and Environmental Affairs Director Thomas Barrasso. And after narrowing the proposals down to a final three, Amesbury awarded the Boston-based company Kearsarge Energy the right to build a 4.5-megawatt solar array on the Titcomb Pit landfill.
The time in between SunEdison’s bankruptcy and the project’s reboot sidelined activity for a while, but according to Barrasso it also allowed for technological upgrades in solar energy equipment that will improve the Titcomb Pit landfill’s production. The unwanted delay also allowed the strength of the solar market to grow. Amesbury, having already successfully completed a landfill-to-brightfield project once before, had some idea what to expect. So, it was very surprised to see such a strong response to the re-issuance of a RFP it had put out just a few short years ago.
"We've had about 35 to 38 people come in to pick up applications and express their interest," Barrasso said in the days leading up the RFP deadline. "This has been an exciting project to run," he added. "It's been great to see the level of interest. We have actually had calls from as far away as Naples, Italy. People still want to do projects on landfills, especially those owned by municipalities. So we are in a good position."
Although Amesbury owns the land, it will not benefit by receiving any electricity directly. Both of its two landfill brightfield developments generate electrons that flow elsewhere. The benefit to the city is purely financial.
In addition to generating value leading the land, Kearsarge’s solar project at the Titcomb Pit landfill will pay the city $20,000 per megawatt per year as part of a 20-year lease and an additional $15,000 per megawatt per year for the PILOT program.
"This is strictly a financial exercise where the city makes money," Barrasso recently told the Daily News. "But on the green side of things, we are doing our part in making sure the green infrastructure is being built. This is the second solar development in Amesbury and between this and Citizens Energy, I think we should have 10.5 megawatts of solar power coming off of Amesbury properties."
Amesbury also plans to enter the state's new Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target, or SMART, solar incentive program, when it’s unveiled potentially in 2018. "That program has been developed but it is not quite out there yet," Barrasso said. "We have some estimates but the actual dollar amount is unknown. We really don't know for sure. But for this project, we will get the PILOT. We will get what comes under the SMART program and we will also get a lease amount. So the city will make out better than with the Citizens Energy project (its first landfill project) because the city owns the property."
With a total 10.5 megawatts of solar production, Barrasso also believes Amesbury will become the "biggest (solar producer) on the North Shore" and one of the larger municipal producers in Massachusetts.
"As far as the rest of the state goes, I think we were going to be one of the biggest," Barrasso said. "I think Worcester may have beat us out as far as statewide. They have one single landfill that is putting out more than that. It is a much bigger site."
That’s not too bad for a city with little more than 15,000 people.
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