State’s largest rooftop solar project going up in Pembroke

  • A worker atop the roof of the Associated Grocers of New England in Pembroke, which is now the state’s largest rooftop solar array built to date. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 7/18/2021 2:54:50 PM

The state’s largest rooftop solar array is being placed atop a huge warehouse in Pembroke, saving Associated Grocers of New England a lot of energy and eventually a lot of money.

The 1.3-megawatt project, involving 3,400 solar panels, will cost the company $2.4 million to install, about $600,000 of which will be recovered in federal tax credits. Over the course of the year, it is projected to provide about 20% of the building’s electricity, creating a payback period of about a decade.

“We will have electricity savings in 9.5 years,” said Mike Violette, CEO of the cooperative which serves independent grocery stores in New England and upstate New York.

Larger arrays exist in the state and much larger arrays are in the works, but they are mounted on the ground.

The warehouse, which covers close to 500,000 square feet or the size of eight football fields, is located between Route 3 and the Soucook River. It holds and distributes grocery products for member stores, which are typically smaller stores than big chain supermarkets. Aside from about 10,000 square feet of office space, it is devoted roughly half to dry goods and half to refrigerated goods, with the array not going atop the refrigerated side.

“We’re keeping it on the dry side because there are no refrigeration pipes up there,” Violette said. “That would make it too complicated.”

Work began last month and the system should be operating by the end of the summer.

Violette said the project is the result of analysis by the group’s Green Awareness Committee, seeking ways to reduce the company’s carbon footprint.

The array is being installed by Brentwood-based ReVision Energy, and is expected to generate more than 1.45 million kilowatt-hours of clean energy every year, offsetting 2.2 million pounds of CO2 emissions annually. The company said this is “equivalent to planting 17,000 tree seedlings or removing 224 cars from the road.”

Among the advantages of rooftop versus ground-mounted solar installations are that they require much less wiring to connect them to users and take advantage of existing but unused real estate. Drawbacks include more difficult maintenance, including dealing with snow, and possibly complicating responses to building fires, which may require firefighter access through the roof.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)
David Brooks bio photo

David Brooks is a reporter and the writer of the sci/tech column Granite Geek and blog granitegeek.org, as well as moderator of the monthly 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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