Meeting date: 
Wednesday, February 19, 2014

FEBRUARY 19, 2014


The meeting was called to order at 7:31 PM by Chairman Bernard Zahren in the Avon Room, Building 1 Town Hall.  Members present: Chairman Bernard Zahren, Mitch Kennedy, Richard Kretz and Lisa Levin. Members absent: Brian Glenn and Marty Kaplan. Mr. Bullis has submitted his resignation to the Commission. Advisory member absent: Jonathan Craig. Also in attendance were Town Manager Brandon Robertson, Assistant Town Manager Steve Bartha, Town Clerk Ann Dearstyne, Superintendent of Schools Gary Mala and BOE Assistant Superintendent of Finance & Operations John Spang.

Mr. Zahren requested that “Google” be added before the word “earth” on the top of page 2.
VOTE: Mr. Kretz motioned, Dr. Kennedy seconded and all agreed to accept the December 4th minutes with the change. None opposed.


IV OLD BUSINESS: a. Update on Solar RFP process, b. CPACE Program Update
Mr. Zahren asked Mr. Robertson to give some information about the recent solar RFP outcome. Mr. Robertson discussed concerns that have arisen regarding the selection of the solar provider “GreenSkies” and the process. He noted a public hearing is scheduled for March 6th for the Town Council to authorize execution of an easement to locate these items on roofs and also authorize Mr. Robertson to execute a power purchase agreement. The BOE would have to do the same thing for the Superintendent. He is concerned with the timeframe, limiting them to become comfortable with the 20 year agreement, not knowing much about this given the short time period. He continued that one of the options is to enter into a letter of intent with the vendor which basically says we’re interested in moving forward, subject to conditions such as approval by the Town Council and the BOE, successful auction results, successful negotiation of the power purchase agreement and the site plan approval by Planning and Zoning. The letter of intent would be a way to advance the project giving everyone more time to understand and get comfortable and up to speed and participate in the April auction.  Mr. Robertson continued that there will be a special joint meeting of the Town Council and BOE March 6th at 6:00PM to review and respond and give details of the ZREC process and choice of GreenSkies, its process with benefits and risks for discussion. He noted that the Town Council may have to but not necessarily take action or authorize a letter of intent.

Ms. Levin questioned whether a letter of intent would keep it “alive” for GreenSkies. Dr. Kennedy said that it should, citing his own experience. Ms. Levin asked if Mr. Robertson was in continuing discussion with the Town Council, knowing where the Commission stood. Mr. Robertson noted that the responses to the RFP were due January 30th followed by the Council meeting February 6th. This meeting was to show receipt of the responses and, given the time frame, set the public hearing for March 6th. In the interim an opinion from the Town Attorney said that both the Town Council and BOE have to agree on the easement agreements and PPA as other steps of the process. He mentioned some trepidation on the part of the Council entering into a long term agreement (20 years) but that they agreed to set the public hearing giving staff time to look at the information and report back. The letter of intent allows the town to participate in the auction process and get more time to evaluate what it’s all about and let the process mature. Mr. Zahren offered the Commission to help in any way they could. Mr. Robertson would like to put together a very thorough presentation. He noted too that questions to date have been very detailed.

Dr. Kennedy questioned the company Al Tru’s proposal. Mr. Zahren explained that this proposal uses virtual net metering meaning the Town would only get the energy savings utilizing panels mounted on remote locations namely agricultural fields. Dr. Kennedy mentioned that there is a bill currently in the State Legislature that wants to ban the building of large solar arrays on prime farmland. He added that the 20 year commitment would mean that nothing could be grown on the land for that time period and maybe that land would be needed for agriculture as climate change affects prime food growing states. Dr. Kennedy also noted that there’d be more of a lottery for virtual net metering compared to the SRECs and urged against them at this time. Mr. Zahren mentioned that he’d prefer the systems be located on town property as an educational benefit as well as the economics.

Mr. Robertson questioned the potential success of the auction process. Dr. Kennedy answered that we were positioned in the “sweet spot” and waiting could jeopardize the pricing, foreseeing the REC price going down thus pushing the PPA price up. Mr. Zahren cautioned that a letter of intent would not be binding on the vendor or the Town whereby signing the PPA would lock in the price. He agreed with Dr. Kennedy that waiting could drive the price higher.

Mr. Bartha referred to a handout giving information about an Avon company that is financing a comprehensive energy efficiency retrofit through the C-PACE program. The total project cost is $453,550. More information will soon be available on the C-PACE website.


Ms. Levin and Mr. Kretz discussed their report on other available programs. To begin, Ms. Levin concluded that she’s grateful that we did not pursue a residential Solarize CT plan. She added that she could be a supporter of it but we currently lacked the grassroots support needed to make it successful. She continued that success would hinge on sign-ups over a 20 week period and overall the program sounds very solid but generally we’d need to get our ducks in a row by building a base support. Ms. Levin added that the upcoming public hearing would be a great way to introduce the residents to solar power and what the Town and Commission are doing. She’d first like to see how receptive the residents are to the Town’s solar project before signing up. Dr. Kennedy offered that there’d be 2 sign-ups per year for the Solarize CT project, one every six months. Mr. Kretz concurred that it’s probably not the best idea right now given what is on the Town Council’s plate right now. Mr. Zahren agreed that we needed to have a group of volunteers in place before we began and this current project should bring solar to the forefront. Ms. Levin reminded that there’d still be a Town Council meeting that’d be needed for authorization of the PPA and easements.

Mr. Zahren noted that the surrounding valley towns are showing sentiment to get the commissions together to compare notes and that maybe we should even run a small contest. Ms. Levin asked if the towns could join together with Solarize CT.


VOTE: Ms. Levin motioned, Dr. Kennedy seconded and all agreed to adjourn the meeting at 8:31 PM. None opposed.                       

Respectfully submitted:
Chairman Bernard Zahren
Attest: Susan Gatcomb, Clerk