The town of Aquinnah awarded a bid to Vineyard Power this week to build a solar array at the town landfill, marking the first major project for the Island energy cooperative.

Pending approval from town counsel, the selectmen signed a preliminary agreement at their meeting Tuesday to place about 200 panels at the town landfill. The 50-kilowatt system will produce up to 60,000 kilowatt hours a year, which is equivalent to about 10 to 12 houses. The panels will produce enough electricity to power the town buildings.

The project will cost around $340,000 to build and will be financed through a combination of loans from Vineyard banks for 10 years and private investment, with no expense to the town. Under the agreement, after 10 years the operation of the array will be handed over to the town.

At the annual town meeting last May, Aquinnah voters approved investigating a solar array at the landfill site. An amendment to the article specified that selectmen must return to voters before a final lease agreement is signed. Town administrator Adam Wilson said this week he was checking with town counsel Ronald H. Rappaport on the matter.

The panels are expected generate about $14,000 worth of electricity a year. Additionally, the state will provide the town with renewable energy credits amounting to about $3,000 a year. The town pays about $14,000 a year for its electric bills.

The panels are expected to last between 25 and 30 years.

Vineyard Power director Richard Andre said the project will be financed with $190,000 in private investment monies and $150,000 in loans. Investors will get their money back in 10 years from electricity and renewable energy credits and tax credits from the federal government, he said.

Time was a factor in signing the agreement, since the tax incentive offer from the government expires Dec. 31. Vineyard Power needs to spend at least five per cent of the cost by that date to be eligible for the credits.

Selectman and board chairman Jim Newman applauded the decision.

“This is costing the town of Aquinnah nothing, we’re not paying a penny for this,” he said. “We’re under no financial obligation whatsoever.”

“Except to buy electricity for the town,” Mr. Andre added. “Which is cost-neutral.”

In other business, selectmen signed a revised version of the Tri-Town Ambulance Service agreement, which had not been updated since 1976. The agreement leaves the assessment formula unchanged, divided equally among the three up-Island towns.

The selectmen also voted to appoint Gary Robinson as the town’s new emergency management coordinator. Mr. Robinson has previous experience with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Coast Guard.

“We’re happy to have you on board with us,” Mr. Newman said.

“I’ve been on the Island for six months and I’m looking forward to working with you,” Mr. Robinson said. “I’m anxious to get started.”

by Remy Thumin