Solar panels coming to community center in Barrington

System will ensure independently-powered emergency shelter

By Josh Bickford
Posted 2/1/23

An array of solar panels will be installed at the Bay Spring Community Center.

The Barrington Town Council approved the installation at its Jan. 9 meeting after listening to a presentation about …

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Solar panels coming to community center in Barrington

System will ensure independently-powered emergency shelter


An array of solar panels will be installed at the Bay Spring Community Center.

The Barrington Town Council approved the installation at its Jan. 9 meeting after listening to a presentation about the benefits of the project, and possible future projects. 

Allen Giles, a representative from Massachusetts-based Solect Energy, told council members that the photovoltaic installation would save the town money, create an independently-powered emergency shelter, and provide educational opportunities to students and residents.

The system will include solar panels, a battery that could store generated electricity, a fence surrounding the installation, and electrical panel upgrades. Giles said the system would not cost the town any money. 

Solect Energy will pay for the project, and the town will enter into a power purchase agreement, he said. In a memo to the town council, Barrington Town Manager Phil Hervey wrote that voters at this year’s financial town meeting will need to approve entering into a 25-year lease with Solect Energy for utilizing a portion of the community center property for the installation.

In a recent interview, Magnus Thorsson, the chairman of the town’s Resilience and Energy Committee, said the system would operate behind the meter — it would sell excess electricity back to the grid and also continue to power the Bay Spring Community Center’s needs in the case of an outage. 

Thorsson referenced the impacts of Hurricane Ian in Florida, citing the devastating effects power outages can have on people who cannot run their medical equipment. 

“At the Bay Spring Community Center, people can come in and charge their equipment,” he said. 

In addition, the solar energy system could power the heating and air conditioning at the community center, in effect, creating an emergency shelter following an outage. 

Thorsson also emphasized the educational opportunities provided by the system. 

The chairman of the Resilience and Energy Committee said the Bay Spring Community Center installation could potentially serve as a powerful endorsement to creating a photovoltaic installation at Barrington Middle School. Solect Energy’s presentation included information about that type of project — it featured different PV systems (rooftop, canopies and ground). Solect Energy has installed PV systems at more than 50 schools in the region, as well as municipal buildings, nonprofit headquarters, and state agencies. 

Giles said Barrington Middle School is already equipped with the infrastructure to handle a roof-top solar installation. He said a roof-top system could generate approximately $550,000 in electricity bill savings for the school department and town over the course of 25 years. 

Giles also said the parking lot at the middle school could accommodate a canopy system of solar panels, which would nearly double the potential energy cost savings. 

Before the town council signed off on the installation of a PV system at the Bay Spring Community Center, Barrington resident Thomas Rimoshytus asked a question — he wanted to know if a flood in the Bay Spring area of town would ruin the system.

Giles said the ground-mounted system would be built off the ground, elevated “out of the flood plain.” 

Initially, Solect Energy had considered installing the new solar panel array on the roof of the community center. Giles said a closer inspection of the center’s construction — the building is more than 100 years old — led officials to relocate the system to the ground. 

Council members voted 5-0 to approve the new solar energy system at the Bay Spring Community Center.


Thorsson said Barrington has taken a progressive approach when it comes to solar energy. He referenced earlier solar energy initiatives in town, including a recent move to bring electric vehicles to the police department. Barrington Police currently have a Ford Mach-E electric vehicle and two F150 electric pickup trucks on order. 

Thorsson said renewable energy recently became more affordable than natural gas. He believes the solar installation at the Bay Spring Community Center is just one example of the town’s interest in renewable energy.

“Nobody else is going to do this for us,” Thorsson said. “We’ve got to do this for ourselves.”

At a recent planning board meeting, another member of the town’s Resilience and Energy Committee, Hans Scholl, took an active interest in a potential 350-unit development at the former Zion Bible College property. Scholl first asked a representative for the property owner what the plan was for the energy supply for the development — was it fossil fuel-based, he asked?

The representative said that part of the plan had not been finalized, while someone from the design firm said they had prior experience with creating net-zero buildings, complete with geo-thermal and solar. 

Scholl said the developer should consider focusing on renewable energy as it would not be fair to lock in new residents to a more expensive energy source. He also recommended the plan include infrastructure to support electric vehicle charging stations.

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