By Hiroko Sato
GROTON -- If Groton Electric Light Department has its way, a capped landfill on Cow Pond Brook Road could become home to a solar farm to help power local homes.
GELD is shifting its focus on the former landfill for its solar-power generation project after it found out it could not build a system on a Nutting Road parcel -- one of the two locations originally proposed for the project -- because of protected species found there.
"Turtles killed the Nutting Road site," GELD Manager Kevin Kelly said.
GELD has already received the permit for the other site, which is on Sandy Pond Road, Kelly said. If GELD can build another system on the landfill, it would more than make up for the Nutting Road site.
GELD had shelved the solar project for awhile this year as the state worked to finalize its new solar regulations. Solar system owners receive a so-called solar renewable energy credit (SREC) for every 1,000 kWh of power generated. SRECs are tradable in the open market just like stock shares are, and solar developers count on sales of SRECs to get a return on their investment.
Wherever GELD's solar system is located, GELD won't be building it; it will be built by a third party, from which GELD will purchase power generated on site. Solar developers interested in projects in Massachusetts waited for the new regulations to be finalized because they couldn't take a risk on investing without knowing how may SRECs they could receive. The regulations became official in April.
Under the new regulation, which encourages smaller and residential projects, solar farms generally qualify for fewer SRECs than they did under the previous regulation. But if they were to build a solar farm using a landfill or a Brownfield (land previously used for commercial or industrial uses), it would be more advantageous than building on other types of land, Kelly said. That's because when a solar system has a capacity of 650 kW or larger, those built on landfills and Brownfields qualify for more SRECs compared to similar systems on other types of land.
GELD is limiting the size of the system on Sandy Pond Road to 650 kW -- which is enough to power about 160 homes in Groton -- and is hoping to build a larger system, up to 2.7 MW, at the landfill.
GELD hopes to select a developer for the Sandy Pond Road project in the near future. If everything goes smoothly, a system will be built and go online this year, Kelly said.
For all locations, project cost is estimated at about $2 million per 1 MW, which the developer for the project would bear, Kelly said.