Hopkinton: Deal made with ReVision Energy to install solar at fire department

Monitor staff
Published: 3/31/2016 11:39:26 PM

The Hopkinton Selectboard approved an agreement Monday to add solar panels to the roof of the town’s fire department in Contoocook.

The project, passed by voters at town meeting earlier this month, has the green light and officials hope installation will begin by summer.

“The building is right downtown – having one side of the roof have solar is great,” said Jim O’Brien, chairman of the board. “It’s a good symbol.”

The deal was finalized Monday, and the town agreed to a power purchase agreement with ReVision Energy. This means the company will install the panels and maintain ownership of them, while selling the power to the town.

The town has a buyout option in the deal’s seventh year, O’Brien said. 

Using solar will lower energy costs at the station, but residents shouldn’t expect a big drop in their tax rate.

“Overall, it’s not a lot of savings,” O’Brien said. “We are going to be paying less than purchasing electricity through Eversource. . . . Based on the best available data, over time we will continue to save somewhere around $1,000 per year.”

With that figure, O’Brien expects the town to save about $7,000 over the first seven years. Beyond that, “10 to 15 years of projections, it’s a crystal ball.”

At town meeting, voters gave the board its approval to move forward in negotiations with a solar company. The article required a two-thirds majority, which is just about what it got.

“It was a closer vote than I would have expected,” said Town Administrator Neal Cass. “The town has always been supportive of greener ways of doing things."

Town officials began exploring the idea of adding solar when the the fire department went under an intense renovation that was finished last spring. The town issued a $3 million bond to rebuild the station, including a new bay for the ladder truck and adding a second floor.

Officials intended to cut energy costs and use cleaner energy practices with the new firehouse. Part of that plan was installing a wood pellet boiler system. 

At the time of the renovation, the town and and board explored installing solar panels, but decided to wait and maintain a minimal cost burden on taxpayers.

Cass said the town is continuously pursuing ways to use clean energy and cut costs. 

“We are always looking for ways to save money,” Cass said. “If we can do that and do that with cleaner energy, that’s always better.”

Potential sites for future projects include the transfer station and highway garage, but Cass said discussions are mostly conceptual.

“We have some land at the transfer station,” Cass said, suggesting it has the potential to hold a solar array.

The ideal place for solar panels is a clear, unshaded roof facing as close to due south as possible, with a pitch of about 35 degrees, said ReVision Energy Program Manager Sam Lavallee.

“We did an analysis of all the town roofs, and we found the fire department was the best rooftop they have,” Lavallee said. “It faces a little bit east of south, but it’s just about perfect.”

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