Dalton opts to purchase net metering energy credits from both Hampshire Cow Power, BDV Solar

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DALTON — Cow power or solar?

The answer: both.

After a lengthy discussion with Beth Greenblatt of Beacon Integrated Solutions at a special meeting held Monday, Dec. 18, the Select Board chose to purchase net metering credits from both Hampshire Cow Power, a privately owned project in Granville that uses methane to generate electricity, and BVD Solar, a company that is currently constructing arrays in Pittsfield.

The board also chose to accept BVD Solar's offer to host its array in Hinsdale.

Selecting both projects enables the town to diversify — the Hampshire Cow Power contract is 10 years, while the contract with BVD Solar is 20 years with a five-year renewal option.

"I think both projects are interesting and exciting," Greenblatt told the Select Board over the phone at the meeting.

The town stands to save almost $104,000 over the terms of its 20-year contract with BVD Solar.

Savings from the Hampshire Cow Power contract should total about $39,000, said Robert W. Bishop Jr., chairman of the select board.

Net metering, a state incentive program, allows customers of major electric companies like Eversource to receive credit for electricity generated from qualified renewable energy projects.

The town will purchase 280,000 kilowatt hours of net metering credits from BVD Solar and 220,000 from Hampshire Cow Power per 12-month period.

The board took up net metering as a cost-saving measure.

"This is just a no-risk for the town," Bishop said. "It's a way to save money for the town. That's what our decision was."

The board tabled the discussion of net metering at its regular meeting on Dec. 11 to allow time to clarify the terms of contract cancellation with both projects.

Since the discussion, both projects have agreed to allow early termination of their contract with notice without penalty, Greenblatt said.

In both contracts, the town will receive a 17.5 percent discount rate off net metering credit amounts, meaning that for every $1 in net metering credits applied to Dalton Eversource bills, the town would be entitled to keep 17.5 cents.

The other 82.5 cents would go to the applicable project — Hampshire Cow Power or BVD Solar.

The contracts only apply to the town, not residential electric customers.

The board had discussed the potential for net metering for about six months before making their decision, Bishop said.

The town approved a single net metering project in 2014 at the annual town meeting. That approval will be assigned to Hampshire Cow Power.

The project with BVD Solar will require separate approval at town meeting.

Speeding and zoning

The board also considered a report of the Dalton Traffic Commission concerning the speed limit on Dalton Division Road north of Scalise Drive.

The study, conducted over two full days in July, concluded that the current speed limit of 45 mph was appropriate for the area, said Dan Filiault, a member of the commission.

The study found that 85 percent of the vehicles surveyed were traveling at or below 47 mph.

The study was generated in response to an informational meeting on the reconstruction of Dalton Division Road, which took place in September 2016.

"Many voiced an opinion that the speed limits should be lowered in the 45 mile-an-hour zone," said John W. Bartels Jr., a member of the Select Board.

But there isn't a glaring speed problem in the 45 mph area of the road — accidents tend to take place at either end, where the speed limit is lower, said Chief Jeffrey Coe of the Dalton Police Department.

The board also approved the town Development & Industrial Commission's request to seek technical assistance from the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission for two zoning projects — re-zoning Hinsdale Road to a Planned Industrial Development District and developing a drive-through bylaw.

The planning commission solicits these requests under its 2018 District Local Technical Assistance Program, which is offered at no cost to the communities served.

Board members also reviewed the action plan of the town's master plan of 2016, noting where the town has and hasn't made progress.

Edward Holub brought up the action item for the town to reconsider adopting the Community Preservation Act to fund affordable housing projects.

"I'm all for it," Bartels said. "I would love to see more affordable housing in the town, given our current economic status."

Dalton has experienced a decline in income, adjusted for inflation, since 2000. The town has also seen a significant increase in poverty with the loss of higher-paying manufacturing jobs, according to an executive summary of the master plan.

Bartels suggested that the board direct the various town boards to report on what they are doing to implement the master plan in their capacities.

Robert W. Bishop Jr., chairman of the Select Board, said he would put out that request.

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at pleboeuf@berkshireeagle.com, at @BE_pleboeuf on Twitter and 413-496-6247.


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