Newport voters approve solar project to power all town, school needs

  • FILE- This April 20, 2011, file photo shows some of the 30,000 solar panels that make up the Public Service Company of New Mexico's new 2-megawatt photovoltaic array in Albuquerque, N.M. Environmentalists and the Union of Concerned Scientists say New Mexico is at a crossroads and has an opportunity to adopt policies that will encourage the development of more renewable energy. They presented their case Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, for boosting the percentage of electricity that New Mexico utility customers get from renewable resources from 20 percent in 2020 to 50 percent by 2030 and more in subsequent years. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan,File) Susan Montoya Bryan

Monitor staff
Published: 5/9/2018 2:44:21 PM

Newport will be getting the state’s largest municipal solar project, and one of the biggest of any kind in the state, after voters approved  the project by a 652-235 vote at town meeting.

Newport officials say the 2.2 megawatt project can meet “the entire annual energy needs for Newport town and school facilities” including its three schools, library, town hall, police and fire departments. 

It will consist of three sets of photovoltaic solar panels on town-owned land – next to the wastewater treatment plant, on a closed landfill and next to a pumping station.

The town meeting vote authorized the town and school district to enter into a 25-year Power Purchase Agreement with local solar developer Norwich Solar Technologies. Under the PPA, Norwich Solar will take on the more than $2 million cost of building the project and will own it, selling the power at discount rates to the town and school system, and profiting from any difference in wholesale and retail rates as well as credits for solar power. 

Work should begin this summer and if all goes well, the project will be online “by  mid-fall, probably,” said Paul Brown, finance director and assistant town manager.

The power purchase agreement includes a provision allowing Newport to purchase the arrays in the future.

The largest solar array in New Hampshire at the moment is a 2 megawatt system opened in Moultonborough by New Hampshire Electric Cooperative. Several other multi-megawatt systems have been proposed or are in the works. 

Although large by New Hampshire solar standards, these units are small compared to traditional power plants or hydropower dams, which generally produce at least 10 megawatts of electricity. 

David Brooks bio photo

David Brooks is a reporter and the writer of the sci/tech column Granite Geek and blog, as well as moderator of Science Cafe Concord events. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in mathematics he became a newspaperman, working in Virginia and Tennessee before spending 28 years at the Nashua Telegraph . He joined the Monitor in 2015.

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