FREEPORT — The town of Freeport may collaborate on a solar energy project with Regional School Unit 5 and the Freeport Sewer District.

Town Manager Peter Joseph told councilors last week that he and Town Planner Donna Larson recently met with representatives from the school and sewer districts to examine the possibility of installing solar arrays to offset energy costs. Joseph said all three parties are interested in exploring how they could work together.

In a memo sent to the council, Joseph said a more wide-ranging project might generate more interest from bidders, installers and investors, which would “hopefully result in lower installation costs and/or lower energy purchase rates.”

According to Joseph, the sewer district is the furthest along in the analysis, followed by the town and the school.

Each organization, Joseph said, “brings something different to the table.”

Freeport follows a number of other Maine communities exploring or building solar energy projects, typically using the fields that cover old municipal landfills. South Portland has completed a 2,944-panel array on its old landfill, Portland is working to prepare its landfill site for a solar project and Cumberland is now exploring a solar development.

The sewer district has a high demand for electricity, but little available space for installation. The opposite is true for the town, which has property that could be used for ground-mounted solar arrays. RSU5 has both a high electrical demand and a lot of roof space, Joseph said.

“As all three organizations are government organizations, I think a good case could be made for collocating arrays and making property available for long-term joint use at low or no cost,” Joseph said.

The next step in the process is to have Rich Roughgarden, an electrical engineer with Maine Solar Engineering, conduct an analysis of available sites and project design, to include permitting with Central Maine Power, with the intent of producing a design and specifications to attract “competitive bidders.”

Joseph said a “very conservative” cost estimate for the design package is $20,000, but he anticipates the entities will pay closer to $5,000 each for the study. In order to get a more precise quote, all three organizations are providing Roughgarden with two years’ worth of electrical use data and a list of potential array locations.

Joseph said he expects the funds to be allocated from the town’s energy savings reserve fund, which has a balance of about $29,000.

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

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