Wastewater plant to get solar upgrade


NORWAY — An agreement to install solar energy devices at the wastewater treatment plant is expected to be executed as soon as contract details are ironed out with state officials who have awarded Norway an $85,000 grant to buy the units.

“We’re talking with them (state officials) about some changes then we’ll wrap it up. That should take a few days,” explained Town Manager David Holt of the contract. “Then we’ll sign an agreement with the SolarBee company.”

Earlier this year, the town was awarded the $85,000 to purchase  two SolarBee units, which use energy from the sun to power the plant’s wastewater circulators. Officials say the use of the units will cut the sewer plant’s electrical usage dramatically.

The SolarBee, which operates day and night (via batteries), cuts energy consumption by reducing aeration/mixing equipment run time, according to information from the company.

The units are expected not only to significantly decrease the energy use at the Brown Street wastewater plant, but may result in keeping down any significant sewer user fee increases in the future. The units are expected to save between 150,000 and 250,000 kilowatts per year in energy.

The new SolarBees will be added to the existing SolarBees that were installed two years ago. The initial units cut the department’s electrical use in half, according to town officials. They were paid for with a $50,000 renewable energy state Public Utilities Commission grant and were the first solar-powered reservoir circulators at a treatment plant in the state.

The funding for the new units comes from the PUC’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Custom Project grant fund that is part of the federal government’s stimulus program. Town officials submitted the grant application last November.

There is a $27,080 sewer budget match requirement that Holt said could be saved rather quickly from lower electric bills at the sewer plant.

No town meeting action will be necessary to fund the matching portion of the grant because it is expected that the money will be taken from the sewer user accounts savings in the operations budget of the plant. If that can not happen, Holt said the matching money may be borrowed from an existing $1.5 million federal Rural Development grant. That action would require town meeting approval, he said.

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