The impending closure of MCI-Concord sped up the timeline for solar-related planning. Image by Celeste Katz Marston

Special Town Meeting approves up to $10.4M in solar storage borrowing

May 2, 2024

By Betsy

By a substantial margin, voters at a special Town Meeting approved an article to authorize borrowing $10.4 million to build and install a 5MW utility-scale battery for solar energy storage.

Purchasing the battery has been on the town’s radar since at least 2017, according to Brian Foulds, chair of the Concord Municipal Light Plant board. 

But Foulds said at the Wednesday session that there is some urgency now that MCI-Concord prison is slated to close next month, thereby decreasing its energy needs. The battery would allow the town to harvest the unused power for distribution to ratepayers.

CMLP Board Chair Brian Foulds, center, and Interim Light Plant Director Jason Bulger, right. Image via Minuteman Media Network

Interim Light Plant Director Jason Bulger said the cost could come in below $10.4 million as the project is fleshed out in more detail. Repaying the 20-year loan rests with ratepayers, not taxpayers. 

Rates would increase for the first two years and then drop for the rest of the loan after federal Inflation Reduction Act grants kick in. Bulger said ratepayers could save an estimated $800 over the 20-year period.

Bulger said there are commercial and residential customers who would like to add solar power but can’t now because the town doesn’t have the means to store it.

“It gives us substantial breathing room,” said Bulger.

Select Board Clerk Mary Hartman. Image via Minuteman Media Network

Select Board Clerk Mary Hartman said the board unanimously voted to support the article.

“It protects the stability of the grid,” said Hartman. 

She added that the utility-grade battery will enable the town to “continue making progress” toward its climate action goals.

Dean Banfield of the Solar Implementation Task Force said his group voted affirmative action on the article.

Bulger said annual maintenance costs are estimated at $30,000, and the battery lasts about 20 years.

“It’s really complicated,” said Rein Beeuwkes. “We need to vote for this.”

Pamela Dritt was plain: “It’s like a money tree,” she said.