Project Background

Weston was designated a Green Community by the Commonwealth in 2011 and as part of that designation the town has committed to implementing the use of solar energy, which will help the town reduce its municipal energy consumption.

Renewable Energy Overlay District
The 2011 Annual town Meeting modified the Zoning By-laws by adopting a Renewable Energy Overlay District on the transfer station and the closed landfill property. The by-law allows for the permitting of large-scale, ground-mounted photovoltaic (PV) installations through the town’s site plan review process.

Lease on Landfill
The May 2013 Annual town Meeting approved the town to transfer and authorized a long-term lease on the closed landfill to a developer for siting the solar PV installation and for the town to sign a power purchase agreement to buy all the generated energy for that term at a negotiated price less than what the town pays for electricity from Eversource (Nstar). The installation will use no town capital funds and it must comply with zoning and permitting requirements, as well as a MassDEP and environmental engineer reviews to ensure "no harm done" on the land.

Vendor Issues
Since the 2013 Annual Town Meeting, progress was halted due to the solar PV vendor going out of business. The vendor was a part of a regional procurement contract developed by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, to assist communities in taking advantage of a MassDEP incentive program to implement solar energy projects. Rather than waiting for a new regional agreement and the town losing out on the financial incentive program, the Committee, with permission from the Board of Selectmen, decided to issue an RFP for a solar vendor for Weston.

Consultants
Because the town is a Green Community, it received grant money to hire a consultant, Beacon Integrated Solutions, to work through the RFP process and eventual lease and power purchase agreement. Eleven companies responded to the request. The Committee established an extensive qualitative and quantitative evaluation and found three companies to bring in for interviews. Working with the consultant, the Committee determined that Ameresco’s proposal provided the best overall value to the town, not just for solar energy costs but also for educational opportunities and "no harm done" environmental impacts.

Purchase Agreement
The long term lease and power purchase agreement were signed in March 2015 with Ameresco. The town will pay for and receive electricity generated by this installation for use in its municipal and school buildings at a reduced cost, resulting in savings in the town budget of approximately 40%, which is $350,000 annually on average.

Payment in Lieu of Taxes
As the solar facility will be constructed on town-owned land, in addition to the net metering credits and the lease agreement, there will also be a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) on the property since the vendor is subject to taxation due to the commercial use of the property. This was the final town Meeting approval received at the 2015 Annual Town Meeting.