Do solar farms stay new and shiny?

Action item for April 25 Selectboard meeting

Here is what I said on Friday about the Fire District Solar Project and want to expand on today. 

The Selectboard has a golden opportunity to exert a modicum of local control over the project. Yet, the Selectboard has hardly reviewed the proposal. Why not? This project is large for Norwich — occupying 3.5 acres and consisting of more than 2000 individual solar panels. …  My concern is that the solar farm becomes an eyesore in 10, 20 or 30 years, because (a) the project is not kept up and deteriorates over time or (b) it is not dismantled at the end of its useful life.  

Taking item (b) first, PUC Rule 5.100 requires a decommissioning plan. Norwich Technologies said in an email that it intends to provide a letter of credit as security to backstop that commitment, although not required in the Rule. Excellent! 

My other concern goes to wear and tear on, and damage to, the solar panels.  Will this 3.5 acre solar farm still look aesthetically pleasing in 10, 20 or 30 years?* At the Selectboard meeting on April 11, one of the abutters, who said he was familiar with solar projects, asked about washing the solar panels. He said unkempt sites are called derelict sites, if I recall correctly from the CATV video. Hmmm. We certainly do not want a derelict site. 
Business self-interest assures upkeep, suggests Norwich Technologies in an email. The "economics are such that the array owner only gets paid if the system is well operating and so the incentives ensure maintenance of the system.”
What if the economics change or Norwich Technologies is acquired by mega-corporation?  The secured decommissioning commitment may be adequate to protect the Town in the long term. Does the lease cover this issue in the short term? Should the Selectboard request a representation about ongoing upkeep of solar panels, as part of document filed under Section 5.107(C)(11) of PUC Rule 5.100?  
Then again, climate change won't be pretty. Food for thought. 

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* I do not recall the duration of the lease being mentioned. Anyone know? 

POSTED: 04.23.2018. 


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