Concord – The Concord Municipal Light Plant met with the Board of Selectmen Monday night to outline its 25-year proposal for renewable energy sources, and to promote discussion for what those sources might be.
Hugh Lauer spoke for CMLP, stating their short- and long-term objectives for both overall renewable energy and the implementation of a utility scale solar strategy.
“Our desire is to obtain as much of our electric power as we can from renewable sources, subject to cost and availability,” said Lauer. “From a realistic view, converting 20 percent of the power portfolio from fossil fuels to renewable sources each decade turns out to be a very impressive goal.”
Impressive, but not impossible, said Lauer.
The plant’s goal is to obtain 20 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2015, and 30 percent by 2020. But for that goal to be obtainable, Lauer said, Concord needs to be proactive in its approach.
There are three options with which to conduct renewable energy.
First, utility scale solar power would measure electricity in megawatts rather than kilowatts, which is what the solar panels atop Willard Elementary School produce. The long-term goal would be to produce 5 megawatts every five years, with a goal of 25 megawatts over the course of the next 25 years. These incremental stages would allow for changing technologies, and purchases of only the latest (and most likely, cheapest) solar panels.
Costs of solar panels have continued to drop, said Lauer; they have gone from an original cost of $7.50 per watt, down to roughly $4 per watt.
“When it gets down to $2 a watt it’s a no-brainer,” Lauer said. “The cost of electricity from solar panels will pay for itself, even without any kind of subsidy whatsoever, and it will be well within the amount that you could otherwise pay for… from outside of town.”
By generating this power from within town, Concord would cut costs because it would not be losing power through transmission or paying a price to use transmission lines. This incremental option also “avoids all components reaching the end of their lives at the same time,” said Lauer, “and not having to scramble in order to replace them.”
The second option for renewable energy is rooftop solar panels, which would not act as a substitute for utility scale, but as an accomplice, said Lauer. Currently, there are 1,500 residential rooftops available within town that could house the panels.
The third option is wind turbines, which are too fickle, according to Lauer, and would provide less power than the cost to put in.
“Concord just doesn’t have enough wind, no matter how much we talk,” joked Lauer.
All three options have drawbacks, but if all are placed together, there is a strong probability that Concord will reach its goal of 20 percent.
“They’re aggressive goals, but they’re also not impossible goals,” said Lauer.
One issue the board addressed was the possibility that cost may not come down on the solar panels, and any investment put in may depreciate. But Lauer assured them that an investment for 25 years would be worth it, and at the end of 25 years, they could again attack the idea of renewable energy.
One Concord resident, David Allen, urged the board after the presentation to answer the question of purpose, before the town proceeds with options. If the purpose is to reduce the carbon footprint, said Allen, then wind power would be a better resource, and cheaper option, than solar.
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