My Turn: New Hampshire’s path to a solar future
As the chairman of the Bristol Energy Committee, I would like to make the public aware that right-sized and appropriately funded solar arrays in New Hampshire provide a practical approach to renewable energy in this state and should be a larger part of the developing 2014 Energy Strategy plan.
Bristol township has placed a 58-panel, 15-kilowatt array on the library roof. This array, one year old at the end of this July, is on track to produce enough electricity to meet the library’s annual power needs of 18 megawatt hours.
Extrapolating from these deployment results, 1 megawatt arrays could be deployed by towns in New Hampshire and each produce 1,300 megawatt hours per year. This is enough power to supply the municipal power needs in a town of 7,000 people.
Municipal needs include, in order of demand, water and sewer, schools, fire, police, administration, recreational and road-maintenance facilities. Each array could be built on less than three acres at the local water and sewer plants, and could be built for less than $4 million.
If 25 of these arrays were deployed in small towns in New Hampshire, at a cost of less then $100 million dollars over the next decade, these arrays would produce half of New Hampshire’s 2025 renewable energy goal.
These arrays could be funded as portion of the Alternative Compliance Payments paid by the utilities into the Renewable Energy Fund at the Public Utilities Commission each year.
In 2013, these payments amounted to $18 million, and this year are likely to be in excess of $20 million. The ACP fund will escalate each year based on inflation and the rate approved by the state Legislature.
Using approximately one-third of the New Hampshire ACP funds over the next 10 years would set New Hampshire to achieve 50 percent of its renewable energy goals from solar (instead of 0.3 percent), provide no cost or low cost power to 25 financially burdened municipal administrations, and provide both local employment and education to local residents and tradespeople, the skill set of which is then transferable to business and residential deployments or applications.
If more money was allocated from the ACP funds, larger arrays could be deployed for the larger cities, providing financial relief to their municipal electrical power billings and fully achieving the New Hampshire Renewable Energy goals of 25 percent of energy by 2025.
This is a readily implementable energy strategy for New Hampshire, with all the components in place: sites, labor, technology, materials and funding source. All that is needed is the political will, by the New Hampshire Legislature, to implement it as an achievable component of this 2014 Energy Strategy Plan.
(William Dowey is chairman of Bristol Energy Committee.)