After nine months of talking, Chris Parsons and the Edward Farrar Utility District came to an agreement last Wednesday, Nov, 13.
Parsons can install solar panels on the roof of Waterbury’s sewage-treatment plant, with the town getting a cut of the electricity sales.
Parsons plans to start construction in the spring.
He estimates his project will produce 242 megawatt hours of electricity a year, valued at $36,300 — 15 cents a kilowatt hour. The town will get 7.5 percent of the revenue, $2,722.50, he said.
Parsons had wanted the town to pay for lost income if the solar panels had to be dismantled to allow roof repairs at the sewer plant — which is likely sometime during the 25-year lease, said Bill Shepeluck, Waterbury’s municipal manager.
“We said no to that,” Shepeluk said.
Parson estimates building the solar array will cost $330,000, the majority of that in labor. If the panels are taken down, they won’t be put back up, he said.
“It would be like doing the whole project over again,” he said.
Parsons did his own evaluation, and agreed to the offer despite the risk.
“In our estimation, we can’t see the possibility of (the roof) being replaced in the next 20 years,” Parsons said. And even if the solar panels came down in 15 years, Parsons said he’d still be in the black.
The town wasn’t able to buy the electricity produced by the array, but Parsons said he has found a buyer — a local nonprofit. He doesn’t want to disclose details until the deal is final.
But it’s not entirely about money. The whole idea started when his son Cannon, who was 11 at the time, was learning about renewable energy. The child was fascinated with it, and when he saw the roof above the sludge drying station, he had an idea.
“He’d seen this space and put two and two together,” Parsons said.
Cannon brought the idea to his father and they worked out the details. And that’s the most important aspect to Parsons: the educational value.
“It would be really cool to create some sort of curriculum where you can put a project together,” he said.
Parsons said he will use The Peck Co. of South Burlington to install the panels “once the clouds part on winter,” and is open to doing more projects in the future. If he were to invest in another project, he’d avoid unoccupied sites, such fields, and look for more underutilized space, such as the roof of the sewer plant, he said.
While this array is going up on utility district property, the Waterbury town government has rooftop solar panels on the Main Street Fire Station, and the Vermont Energy Atlas says Waterbury has just over 3,000 acres of suitable space for more solar, and about 2,100 suitable rooftops.
As far as more renewable energy in Waterbury, “it’s something we’re very interested in doing,” Shepeluk said.