The town is pursuing a deal to buy solar energy from an out-of-town installation, a move with potential to shave 15% off its electricity costs.

On Aug. 5, the board of selectmen unanimously voted to authorize its chair and the town administrator to execute such a deal for a term of up to 20 years.

Howard Marshall, chair of the Harpswell Energy and Technology Committee, recommended the path prior to the vote.
The committee examined multiple options, including the possibility of the town building its own solar installation at George J. Mitchell Field or on land near the transfer station. Ultimately, the committee advised the subscription route.

“The advantage that we saw was that the town doesn’t have to do anything other than write a check to someone else and in that process save typically 15% on the electric bill and get green energy,” Marshall said.

The option to build and own a town array would save the town more money in the long term, according to Marshall, but has its downsides. The town would have to find a private investor to work with, hire a contractor to build the array and maintain the array. Marshall looks at a subscription “as like the convenience of leasing a car, where you pay a little more, but you just write checks and you’re done,” he said.

A subscription will come with flexibility, too, to buy more or less credits as the town’s energy use changes. “You don’t have to plan now for what the energy usage is going to be for the next 25 years,” Marshall said.

This would leave open another possibility — installing solar panels on the roof of the recycling center.

“You could put something up there that might handle 20% to 30% of the town’s usage,” Marshall said, then continue to buy credits for the other 70% to 80%.