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Municipal Solar

One element of Lincoln's commitment to reducing municipal greenhouse gas emissions is sourcing energy from renewable sources. Thanks to acceleration in the viability of the solar photovoltaic market, solar technology and financing options are becoming increasingly attractive methods of supplying renewable energy to support municipal operations.

Throughout 2015–2016, a working group of representatives from Lincoln’s town administration, Conservation Commission, Green Energy Committee, and Planning Board met to review the town’s priorities and opportunities on investing in solar, and enlisted the services of Solar Design Associates (SDA) of Harvard, MA, to perform technical, siting, and feasibility analyses on 25 potential sites in Lincoln. Together, they developed a Solar Blue Print (published December 2016).

 

Municipal solar plans in Lincoln

After careful evaluations of a number of municipal sites, two were ultimately recommended for solar PV development as the highest potential for the near term:

 

  1. A ground-mounted solar installation on the landfill at the Lincoln Transfer Station, which has the potential to support up to 1 MW in annual solar generation, the equivalent of approximately 50% of the amount of energy consumed by our town buildings. This site has some land-use constraints and has undergone a landfill habitat assessment
     

  2. A rooftop-mounted solar installation at the Lincoln Public Safety building, with up to 45 kW of annual solar generation. This site has few or no land-use constraints.

 

Following this study of regulatory, financial, and siting considerations, Lincoln’s solar PV working group advises the Town of Lincoln to move forward on the installation of solar PV in these two locations to take advantage of Massachusetts’s proposed Solar Incentive Program (SIP). These are two projects we can do now on existing municipal properties where no changes to the building or land is anticipated in the long term (approximately 20 years).

Additional key findings of the solar PV working group are as follows:

 

  1. The Town should take advantage of opportunities and preference to locate solar photovoltaic (PV) on buildings and parking lots (i.e., the built environment) before considering developments on open land.
     

  2. Solar economics are complicated and depend on various federal and state tax incentives, and this environment is fluid. Incentives are decreasing so time is of the essence.
     

  3. Solar Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) are a cost-effective opportunity for municipalities to purchase solar-PV-generated electricity.
     

  4. While removing trees to install solar PV systems may be considered environmentally neutral or even positive, the Town is not likely to support opportunities that require substantial tree removal.
     

  5. Future discussion needs to occur concerning the Town’s overall energy conservation targets to provide a better planning framework for these initiatives.

Ribbon-cutting ceremony for a solar photovoltaic array in neighboring Sudbury, Mass. The Town of Lincoln has been working toward installing two solar PV arrays: a 45-kW rooftop array at the Public Safety building and a 600– to 1,000–kW array on the former landfill.

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