My Turn: Concord takes a leap forward with solar project

For the Monitor
Published: 4/3/2016 12:24:23 AM

Last month, the Concord City Council approved the construction of a 2 megawatt solar array at the Hall Street wastewater treatment plant, providing enough generation to meet nearly 40 percent of the city’s electric bill. Construction of the project will begin in the fall, allowing the current agricultural use of a portion of the site to continue during the 2016 growing season.

Approval of the solar project in Concord is significant for both practical and symbolic reasons. The Concord Energy and Environment Committee has long championed the increased use of renewable sources of energy to meet the city’s needs, and the Hall Street project will deliver benefits for both city operations and taxpayers as our energy mix becomes more diverse.

The project will generate needed property tax revenues and reduce energy costs. As New Hampshire’s capital city, the Hall Street project is symbolic of Concord’s commitment to visible leadership in reducing our carbon footprint and leading the way to a low-carbon economy.

Beyond the local municipal budget benefits, renewable energy projects such as the Concord solar array are part of a larger shift in power generation in communities across the nation in response to the challenge of climate change.

Many communities have adopted specific climate action plans that acknowledge the local impacts of climate change, such as rising sea levels, more frequent and intense storms, and loss of natural resources and wildlife habitat. Developing greater capacity on the community level for renewable energy projects to meet the demand for power is a hallmark of these plans, calling for the reduction of carbon-based generation in favor of solar, wind and biomass.

National efforts to reduce carbon pollution such as the Clean Power Plan provide opportunities for states and municipalities to continue to lead on building a low carbon economy, and renewable energy projects will play an increasingly important role.

The Clean Power Plan will reduce carbon emissions by 32 percent by 2030, and states have considerable flexibility in developing approaches that fit their unique circumstances and existing energy mix. Here in New Hampshire, our state’s participation in the very successful Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative will provide the basis for compliance with the Clean Power Plan’s carbon reduction targets, as carbon emissions have already been reduced by 40 percent since 2009.

Additional renewable energy projects that are developed throughout the Granite State in the coming years will add to this success and provide multiple benefits to our communities, from creating jobs to more predictable energy costs, to cleaner air.

The Concord solar array is an exciting example of taking local action to meet the larger challenge of climate change while delivering practical benefits to Concord’s residents.

Our community will continue to work toward even greater use of renewable energy sources with a larger purpose in mind, and we look forward to more communities throughout New Hampshire taking this important path.

(Rob Werner is the New Hampshire state director of the League of Conservation Voters and a Concord city councilor.)

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