The year 2015 has been a year in which the region has seen a boon in the construction and use of alternative energy sources. Businesses large and small have embraced solar energy, and a company looking to build a wind farm is once again adapting its plan and hoping for approval. Here is a town by town review.
First in the state
A dream conceived a handful of years ago by former Peterborough Selectman Joe Byk, the solar array on the former sewage lagoon in Peterborough became a reality in October. The largest solar array in the state, the installation has weaned the town off fossil fuel use for its electricity.
The solar array is a 942-megawatt, 3,088-panel installation at the end of Pheasant Road, next to the wastewater treatment plant. The solar array powers the wastewater treatment plant, in addition to supplying other municipal buildings with electricity through group net metering.
It wasn’t an easy journey. After Byk urged the town to pursue a renewable energy project, the Public Utilities Commission denied the town and Borrego Solar’s first grant application. After being awarded a $1.22 million grant the second time around, Borrego then faced construction delays during a brutal winter. Once the project was near completion, the town had to make sure it was still eligible for net metering. Eversource Energy exceeded the state-mandated cap for net metering, but ensured Peterborough fell within this cap. Net metering allows the town, as a solar energy system owner, to receive credits for the electricity it adds to the grid.
The town expects the solar array to save between it $250,000 and $500,000 over the next 20 years. These savings will be achieved through a 20-year power-purchase agreement with Borrego Solar. Borrego built the solar array, and sold the system to SunEdison following construction.
The power-purchase agreement allows the town to purchase electricity at 8 cents/kilowatt-hour, instead of the standard 14 kWh. The town will purchase the electricity through virtual net metering, as the electricity is earmarked for municipal buildings not linked to the solar array itself.
Select Board Chair Barbara Miller has said these savings are dwarfed by the impact the solar array will have on the town’s carbon footprint. The emissions the town will not produce because of the solar array are equivalent to removing 300 cars off the road each year.
The $1.22 million grant paid for part of the project, while the power-purchase agreement paid for the remaining $1.4 million.
Town Administrator Rodney Bartlett has said the project was the inspiration for municipalities across the state pursuing solar arrays.
Working for wind
After a lengthy fight that ended in rejection in 2013, a wind farm developer is still pursuing a turbine project on Tuttle Hill and Willard Mountain.
Antrim Wind Energy got a final “no” on its proposed project to put 10 turbines on the Antrim ridgeline from the state’s site evaluation committee in February, 2013. That did not stop CEO Jack Kenworthy, though, who came back this year with a tweaked proposal that eliminates one of the towers, shortens another, and tacks on additional mitigation efforts in an attempt to make the project more palatable to the SEC and local protesters. The new project would produce 28.8 megawatts of energy.
The project has been a divisive one, with naysayers naming aesthetic impact, noise, property value, shadow flicker and ice throws high on their list of concerns. But the project has its backers in town, too, including the Select Board, who praise the project as a step forward in renewable energy production.
Starting the project anew, AWE submitted its renewed proposal to the SEC in October . But before the SEC deliberations can start, AWE is required to hold information sessions in each of the counties the turbines could effect. One will be held in the Antrim Town Hall on Jan. 6.
Yankee, Dublin School
Dublin’s Yankee Publishing has been forced to scale back its 100 kilowatt solar array by 25 kilowatts, after the company was told by Eversource that the grid where the project was to be cited couldn’t handle the full system.
Yankee president Jamie Trowbridge was thrown by the news, as the project was supposed to fit all of the energy needs of the company. Yankee will move forward with a 75 kilowatt solar array in its field at the corner of Route 101 and Monument Road, with plans to erect a 25 kilowatt solar array on the roof of one of its buildings in the future.
“This project will come short, but we still want to meet our goal,” said Trowbridge. “This whole process has created a chain reaction, which has created a lot of delays.”
Trowbridge says the project will not be scaled financially proportionate to the reduction in size, costing the company more money down the road. Trowbridge is unsure how much doing the project in two phases will cost, but he knows it will be over the estimated $300,000 of the original project.
“The array will cost less, but it won’t be as economical,” said Trowbridge. “We are definitely disappointed.”
Dublin School is still working out the financials of its 375 kilowatt solar project, expected to cost up to $1.2 million.
Headmaster Brad Bates says the school is looking into power purchase agreements for the solar array, although he would still accept a lease agreement.
“The funding has been complicated, but its more of an educational experience than anything,” said Bates. “Once we find a partner, we will work to apply for a PUC grant.” Bates says the school is talking with five solar providers and that the project could be constructed in the summer of 2016 in a best-case scenario.
The school’s project was approved by the Dublin Planning Board on July 2. It is projected to fill the energy needs of the school and will be sited in a field on the school’s lower campus, northeast of the soccer field.
Project delayed in Jaffrey
The town of Jaffrey’s solar project has been delayed indefinitely, as the town has not received any grants, according to Selectman Don MacIsaac.
“We have a good project, but we can’t do anything without a grant,” said MacIsaac. “At this point, the project is on hold until we can secure a grant.”
Town Manager Dave Caron says the application for the solar array – which would be located next to the town landfill and save the town an estimated $1.5 million in electricity over 20 years – was denied by the PUC. Caron said the town is waiting to see if more funding is added from grants; if there is, the town will reapply for a grant.
The plan was to lease the property to Borrego Solar, who would build a $2.6 million solar array, which would have been backed by a $1.1 million grant, if it was approved. Jaffrey voters were supportive of the plan, approving a warrant article that allowed the Board of Selectmen to negotiate a lease with Borrego Solar for the project. The warrant article does not lapse, according to Caron.