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Warner selectmen may consider solar panels

Inside David Hartman’s 190-year-old barn in Warner, he keeps chickens, gardening equipment and piles of chopped wood for his stove.

On the roof of the same 190-year-old barn, he now keeps solar panels.

“It’s an environmentally friendly way to generate electricity, and the technology is there to make it work right now,” Hartman said.

And when Hartman flips the switch later this week to begin generating electricity with his new solar panels, the chairman of the Warner Board of Selectmen can turn his attention to a bigger project than his own barn: bringing solar energy to the town at large.

Town Administrator Jim Bingham said members of the energy committee did a tour of town properties with a solar panel company representative to determine possible sites for panels that would generate electricity for town buildings.

While the idea is in its very beginning stages, Hartman said a proposal would most likely come together for the 2015 town meeting.

“We could do something like that here,” Hartman said. “Our energy committee has been studying it and trying to develop a project that may be able to bring to town meeting. . . . We are still pretty interested in promoting an alternative energy source for the town buildings.”

If the local people who have stopped by Hartman’s barn to see his solar panels are any indication, he’s not the only Warner resident who would be interested in the idea.

“I have a feeling that there’s interest enough in town,” Hartman said. “At least bringing it to town meeting for a vote is entirely possible, I would say even probable.”

Twenty years ago, Hartman was among a group of residents who advocated for mandatory recycling in Warner – and who helped pass the idea at town meeting.

“We put on a sales pitch at town meeting that night,” he said. “I recall a few people voting against it, but it was overwhelmingly approved the first time it was brought up.”

The energy committee has taken the lead on investigating possible solar panels, Hartman said, but backing that group as a town official would be the same kind of advocacy as his fight for recycling years ago.

“That was my first campaign on doing the right thing,” Hartman said. “This could be my second.”

Hartman’s own solar panels came with a hefty price tag, he said, but he’s counting on the technology to pay for itself in years to come. The same could be true for the town.

“With the potential of it being a budgetary savings in the long run, this isn’t something you go into for thinking it’s going to pay for itself in the next five years,” Hartman said. “It would be more the payoff over a (longer) period.”

If a proposal does come to a future town meeting as Hartman expects, he said his own investment could help him speak in favor of adopting solar panels on a larger scale.

“It’s something an individual such as I can do on my own, and I would say . . . when it proves itself, that it does work, I feel confident standing up at town meeting as a selectman saying, ‘You know, we ought to try this for the town,’ ” he said.

(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or mdoyle@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)

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