Solar advisory committee back to square one

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Thompson - posted Mon., Mar. 18, 2013

Thompson's Solar Advisory Committee renewed its commitment to explore solar power options during a meeting on March 15. New member Kathleen Herbert joined Alvan Hill, Bernie Davis, Bill Birch and Larry Groh, Jr., to discuss several issues, including an earlier recommendation that the town have KGCI, Inc. serve as consultant on a town-wide photovoltaic system installation.

Sixteen Requests for Qualifications had been submitted on Dec. 18, 2012. The committee was looking for a turnkey photovoltaic system supplier to begin negotiating for the design, qualification, startup and monitoring of a fully-functioning, grid-connected, 1-2 megawatt photovoltaic system on multiple town-owned properties. The committee reviewed those RFQs and chose what they considered to be the top three contenders for the position. While KGCI was initially ranked fifth out of 16, it was one of three to make the cut, and was the company the committee chose to recommend to the BOS on Feb. 4, 2013.

The ability of KGCI to perform the work was called into question at a Feb. 19 Board of Selectmen meeting when Paul Baer presented information contesting the Request for Qualifications that KGCI had submitted to the town. Among the documents were those showing the company hadn't completed the RFQ completely and hadn't indicated if they had done similar work in the past. The Massachusetts-based company had several civil actions filed against them in Massachusetts District Court. The address listed on their website was the same address as a Holiday Inn in Saugus, Mass. And in one document obtained from the Massachusetts Secretary of the State, Corporations Division, the company did not have 35 employees, as it stated in the RFQ submitted to Thompson.

The information has led to a change in how the committee will continue its work. Two additional committee members are being sought for help with the project. Herbert plans to contact officials in Woodstock to learn how that town's Green Energy Commission went about installing a PV system. Future discussions will include whether the committee will ask for Request for Proposals in order to get costs of the projects with information about how a vendor would complete the installation.

The new town planner for Thompson will be invited to join the committee. Committee members plan to visit town-owned properties that could serve as sites for the system. They are also considering inviting members of the Renewable Energy Commission to sit in on meetings and participate in discussions.

Kirsten Forrester suggested requiring a vendor's financial information when reviewing bids. She also said the committee should look at a return on investment calculation when they consider leasing a system versus buying a system.

The next meeting of the SAC will be on April 12, at 2 p.m., at Town Hall.

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