After dispute, Brattleboro looks for other net metering options

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BRATTLEBORO — A dispute over net-metering credits has the town looking at other options, according to town energy coordinator Paul Cameron.

NextSun Energy and the town had "an ongoing dispute about the contract for those credits," Cameron said during a Brattleboro Energy Committee meeting Monday.

"NextSun has unilaterally cancelled its contract with the town after finding the town to be in default," said Cameron, adding that Bob Fisher, the town's attorney, would be reviewing the town's options for responding. "This is about the town's receiving the credits for an agreed-upon price. So basically, the contract has been cancelled."

In November, Select Board Chairman David Gartenstein said there were a couple revisions to a contract and the groups were not having "a meeting with minds" about the most recent revision. A mediation session was scheduled.

The contract was expected to see the town receiving credits for up to 20 years, according to Cameron.

"NextSun didn't like the terms the town was operating under so they pulled out," said Cameron. "Everything I hear is they've been terrible to work with, the absolute worst."

The company could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Committee Vice Chairman Ralph Meima pointed out that other incentives would not be as enticing as previous ones. New projects would be eligible for new incentives that start in 2017.

"They're still economically attractive but they're not nearly as attractive as before," he said.

A solar project at Windham Solid Waste Management District could potentially replace the NextSun one, according to WSWMD Executive Director Bob Spencer.

Brattleboro was expected to take 500 kilowatts from the NextSun project. That same amount of electric power could be found with the district, where a 5-megawatt solar array is being planned.

"So that's 10 of that size project," Spencer said. "We have already started to estimate how much power each town might want to commit to. We will be going out and meeting with the select boards to give them the opportunity to sign on for solar power from this project. But those meetings haven't taken place yet."

Spencer expects to meet with boards this summer or early fall as the district is still waiting on the developer, Pristine Sun LLC. from Berkeley, Calif., to get some of its permitting in place. A 25-year lease agreement was signed to use property on the closed landfill for the project.

"Part of the deal is we would then work with that company to offer that power to our member towns," said Spencer, noting there would be "very significant" cost savings.

Brattleboro could take as much as 1.5 MW or even 2 MW if the Brattleboro Housing Authority's housing units are included, he said.

Special legislation, Act 99, was created in 2014 to use closed landfills in the state for solar energy. The district's property spans 25 acres and was included in the law as a pilot project to serve as a net-metering system.

"It's a great use for a closed landfill," Spencer said. "Because you can't do much with it in terms of use."

Contact Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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