Solar project panned, but wins approval in Concord
CONCORD — The Executive Council on Tuesday approved a $1.2 million grant from the state's renewable energy fund for a solar project in Peterborough, but not without protest from Councilor Chris Sununu, R-Newfields, whose tough questioning of project proponents prompted a mild rebuke from the governor.
Councilor Debora Pignatelli, D-Nashua, said the plan by Water Street Solar of Lowell to install ground-mounted solar panels near the Peterborough Waste Water Treatment Plant would create the largest photovoltaic array in the state.
"It will also set an example for other municipalities looking to save on energy costs," she said.
The array will generate nearly one megawatt of power (947 kilowatts), and will be nearly twice the size of the largest existing solar generator in the state — a 500-kilowatt array atop the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport parking garage, according to Jack Ruderman, director of the Sustainable Energy Division at the Public Utilities Commission.
Peterborough will use the electricity for its waste water treatment plan, community center and other town buildings, with the surplus going into the grid for sale as solar-generated energy. The town is guaranteed a cost of 8 cents per kwh, compared to its current average cost around 9 cents per kwh.
Water Street Solar will own and operate the generator.
Sununu questioned the estimated savings for Peterborough from the project, and called the approval "a drastic mistake." He said the project sponsors did not document the projected savings of $240,000 to Peterborough in electricity over the next 20 years.
"You guys are creating assumptions so you can get to a positive return and get this approved," he said.
That led to an angry response from PUC Chair Amy Ignatius. "It's fair for you to disagree," she said, "but it's absolutely unfair to suggest we are somehow cooking the process here to get to a certain result."
Sununu continued to press the senior project developer Joe Harrison from Water Street Solar on Peterborough's energy costs, after which Gov. Maggie Hassan said, "I think it's important to address the people who come here to provide us with information in as supportive a way as possible."
Pignatelli said after the meeting that she was "appalled" at the way Harrison was treated.
Sununu was unapologetic. He acknowledged the state law that requires the PUC to promote solar energy and other renewables, but said public funds are being thrown away on a project that was good for Peterborough but a poor investment for the state.
"The law says we have to do solar," he said after the meeting, "but it doesn't say we have to do bad solar."
Harrison admitted in a later interview that Peterborough does not have a guaranteed savings contract. "They are taking some risks," he said. If market prices drop below 8 cents per kwh, Peterborough is stuck at 8 cents. "But if prices go up to 11 cents, then they save more."
Ruderman pointed out that generating more solar electricity to help utilities meet renewable energy requirements is an additional benefit from the project, along with reducing carbon emissions by an estimated 522 tons per year.
The total cost of the project is estimated at $2.6 million, with the balance raised by Water Street Solar, a subsidiary of Borrego Solar of Lowell created exclusively to manage the Peterborough project.
The proposal was approved on a 3-1 vote, with Pignatelli, Councilor Chris Pappas, D-Nashua, and Councilor Colin Van Ostern, D-Concord, in favor.
Construction is expected to start in the fall and wrap up in the spring of 2015.
In other action, the council confirmed three new judges to the Superior Court: Charles S. Temple of Concord; Lawrence A. MacLeod Jr., of Lebanon; and David A. Anderson of Portsmouth.
David S. Forrest of Temple and Elizabeth M. Leonard of Concord were confirmed as judges to serve on the state's Circuit Court.
The council accepted the resignation of Thomas E. Bamberger as judge in the Ninth Circuit Court in Nashua.
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MICHAEL KING said:
More "Green" Projects or is that "Green $" projects that do little or nothing.
January 16, 2014 3:36 am
RICHARD WITHAM said:
So at 2.6 MILLION dollars with the town saving 240,000 dollars over 20 years it will take 108.33 years to recoup that 2.6 MILLION dollars. Now that's a ROI that everyone can get behind, NOT!!!!
January 16, 2014 3:44 am
Leo Paradis said:
How do you get $240,000 savings over 20 years.? Do the math: 20 times 12 = 240, the number of months in 20 years. Take a WAG at 'saving' $1,000 per month, you get $240k. Apparently, Maggie thinks that going any deeper into the math is being nasty. Note to Maggie: Not going into the math is just plain stupid, a term that describes this entire project, and the ******** law that "...requires the PUC to promote solar energy...". But, d-a laws seem to be a way of life in NH. No surprise.
January 16, 2014 5:59 am
Frank Cleary said:
What is it about Democrats that they just love to burn money on solar projects? (Our money, of course.) The equipment will be useless long before the savings are appreciated. And a large solar project in quaint little Peterborough? Looks like a waste of money for sure. With NH having some of the highest energy costs in the nation, Peterborough could really "save" when prices go up even higher.
January 16, 2014 6:18 am
eric boyle said:
Don't litter our land with these solar panels. I see fields of them in Mass. They are ugly and are not the answer. Good question Frank, why do Dems want these and windmills so bad? Go do it in MA. NOT IN NH
January 16, 2014 6:35 am
Stephen Boyington said:
I kind of like Sununu. His questions seem fair. The knuckleheads that make it into a Massachusetts versus NH thing? Not so much.
January 16, 2014 7:09 am
Stephen Boyington said:
Eric, sorry that your gorgeous views will be impacted by solar panels. Do you recreate next to the Peterborough landfill a lot? Why is it that people get all concerned about how something looks when they never will ever see it? Partisans are silly.
January 16, 2014 7:10 am
Doug St Pierre said:
In NH they work about 15%. its a waste of our dollars but hey it gets votes. Our country & local leaders have become a Runaway train.If our leaders want it to be a Every man for himself Country then keep it up.
January 16, 2014 7:43 am
LLOYD CLEMENT said:
Deborah Pignatelli, a democrat has it all figured out, "It will set an example for other municipalities to save on energy." Wow, she has it all figured out, I bet she also believes that an economic stimulus is the answer to recovering an economy and will not weaken the dollar. I think Pignatelli should be in place to cure cancer.
January 16, 2014 8:18 am
Benjamin W. Hartley said:
Gully Gee Whiz, Boss! Peterborough's gonna save money by spending the state's money. Oh. That's not correct... _our_ money. You know as well as I do that we, the taxpayers, will end up being the goats; we'll bail out the failed company that's providing this grand and glorious technology. .Don't worry about cooked books, either, brethren. It's all in support of the Blessed Church of Carbon Reduction and Green Redemption, donchaknow.
January 16, 2014 9:46 am
John Mercier said:
Michael King... Its money raised through RGGI (both Bragdon and Bettencourt voted for RGGI); and State statute requires the expansion of PV per the Renewable Portfolio Standard. Richard Witham... It doesn't cost Peterborough anything for the project. But the contractor will get 8 cents per kW with the system producing 947 kW, so the ROI is a lot better than your projecting. Peterborough gets the guaranteed rate of 8 cents per kW for the next twenty years, and thus is currently going to save 1 cent per kW - and could see more in the future as rates rise. And it can't be a Democrat thing, Chris Sununu is completely supportive of biomass projects that are created under the same program - even refused to reinstate a Consumer Advocate because she supported coal, and spoke out against biomass.
January 16, 2014 10:12 am
Claire Petuck said:
It is apparent to me that we have to start using solar and wind more...in order to save the environment for our children. I think the planet will survive all our abusive practices, but will we humans be able to live in the increasing pollution. Many species are becoming extinct and look at all the many allergies that humans suffer from. I'm beginning to wonder if all the GOP members of congress have their money invested with the oil companies or the car industry???? How much do their campaigns rely on "oil" money? Maybe a little investigative reporting by this paper might let us know........ It's time for Americans to stand up to the oil companies....I think clean air comes under the pursuit of happiness.
January 16, 2014 11:08 am
LLOYD CLEMENT said:
Claire: Your post is old rhetoric, a position that has already been proven pointless. I suggest you provide facts and stats other than your feelings that are facilitated by the left wing agenda. As for investments in oil, ahhh, uhm…both democrats and republicans have money in oil. If you have a 401K, mutual funds, etc., then you have money in oil. Do you own a car, do you ride in a car, need I say more?
January 16, 2014 11:17 am
Harrison Brown said:
I'd like everyone, Democrat & Republican to ponder this thought. During the 1970's Energy Crisis, we as a Country started exploring alternative sources of energy. That's the 1st time I heard Solar as a means or producing electricity.Once that Mid East Crack - AKA: Oil, became inexpensive and plentiful again. America abandoned alternative energy. Without play Politics. How well off do you suppose we as a Nation would be today, had we kept on the alternative energy path?Do people realize, every time we even mention the word, Alternative Energy. The Terrorists, that we so willingly give our hard earned money to, for their Mid East Crack magically increase oil production and lower pricing? Get with it people. Even Stevie Wonder sees that!Forget the finger pointing, Republican blah blah blah, Democrat blah blah blah. Follow the money trail. So on that note. I for one support alternative energy.
January 16, 2014 11:46 am
Claire Petuck said:
To Lloyd...No I no longer have a car since my 27 year old Saab failed inspection. My daughter drives me where I need to go in her hybrid! My position is not pointless. It is the GOP position that is hopeless...."head in the sand". It's time to move into the future! How many more oil spills do you want to pollute our waters...how much fracking is safe???? People thought cars were a fad and were distrustful of electricity when it first was available to the public....We are at another crossroad and the GOP is fearful of stepping over the line into a better future!!
January 16, 2014 11:58 am
Chris Herbert said:
Project takes 522 tons of crud out of our environment. Too bad we can't drop the crud into the backyards of opponents to clean, sustainable energy. But it takes imagination to appreciate that kind of cleanup, and conservatives are notoriously bereft of imagination. That's why they can't ever offer anything new. By definition.
January 16, 2014 1:32 pm
Greg Small said:
Republicans love environment destroying dirty energy and absolutely despise clean energy. The Flat Earth Society has found a very comfortable home in the Republican Party.
January 16, 2014 1:38 pm
LLOYD CLEMENT said:
Claire: Where does the power come from to power a hybrid? There is no clean energy and you need to do your research on the generators for wind mills. The chemicals in those things is disgusting, harmful, expensive, and long lasting in terms of harmful to the environment. So, your daughter does all your transportation for you huh? Yeah right…. If green energy was the answer the GOP would be all over it looking for a profit, just the way you liberals accuse them of. I really think you need to educate yourself in reference to your position, your sense of idealism is not only unattainable but obvious in your wishful thought of voidness. Claire, anything is possible when you don't know what you are talking about.
January 16, 2014 4:27 pm
Erin Powers said:
No energy source is without its effect on the environment. But compared to the mountaintop removal, water and air pollution of coal, the fracking and tar sands devastation being wreaked trying to squeeze more oil and gas from declining sources, or the radioactive fish of Fukushima, it's a hard sell to convince me that wind is worse. ### Not all Republicans are anti-environment, though the party as a whole has been taken over by the anti-environmentalists, as far back as Reagan (James Watt, anyone>). ### It sounds like Sununu had some questions for which there should have been easy answers. Certainly it's appropriate for him to have been asking questions. It would be interesting to know just what he asked and what kind of answers he actually got. I know the Executive Council asks pretty tough & detailed questions about many contracts; hard to believe the article is accurate in its sense that this one just slid through ...
January 16, 2014 5:52 pm
Claire Petuck said:
To Lloyd....I am well aware of all the things you cited in your response, but isn't it better to save "some" gas by using a hybrid than not saving any at all. Isn't it better to save "some" oil by using alternative energy. You got it in a nutshell when you said Republicans would be "all over green energy looking for a profit"....precisely why they are against it.....not enough profit....which is all that matters to the GOP...profit, not the welfare of the country or the people. You surely are a pessimist. You need a good dose of idealism! PS....My daughter is good enough to drive me as I am unable to drive myself and I only require her help every 2 weeks...so saving gas by doing everything in one trip.
January 16, 2014 8:04 pm
EUGENE RONIKIER said:
Solar is all about idealism and feel good PR . As a supplement to your energy usage, OK . But, since yourgetting the direct benefit, YOU do the cost benefit analysis, and if your budget sees a pay back, then do it. But, most if not all projects, are funded by "other peoples money" ie: taxes.We have a local water dept office in town that has a big sign "this building uses no energy", because its roofis covered in solar panels. But all that really means is that their electric bill has been "pre paid for the nextxx number of years" with the $ 200,000 federal grant that funded the installation. There is no free lunch,unless its paid for by someone else, and green energy is usually the first one in the food line, spending mylunch money.
January 16, 2014 8:20 pm
EUGENE RONIKIER said:
As a follow up, just do a simple Google search for all the "Green energy grants" that the current administration has sent out, via the Dept. of Energy. $ 7.435 Billion Dollars......for 33 companies....19 of them are bankrupt ! Good return on investment?That would buy 285,961 Hybrid Toyotas...., instead we got next to nothing.
January 16, 2014 8:59 pm
LLOYD CLEMENT said:
Claire: We are addicted to oil and that will not change. Everything is oil based products whether you like it or not, it takes energy to create such products. There is no green energy right now; I am all for developing green energy but there is no hope for it on the horizon. The necessary technology for real green energy that we dream of is not in our lifetime. I listen to people like Al gore who preach this crap and then they drive off in their SUV's with the air conditioning on. You can save all the gas you want, but it will just go to someone or something else, gas is never "Saved." There is no true clean energy Claire, therefore, you have to ask yourself: "Why is there such a push for it with this administration, what are the gains and who gains?" Claire, why all the push and fuss for an energy system that is not technologically ready, and there is nothing in sight that favors green energy?
January 16, 2014 10:27 pm
Ken Dye said:
I couldn't help but notice that this would be the second largest array in N.H. , is that right? Behind the solar array at MHT, right? Since the solar array at MHT has been dismantled (not a panel in sight) "until further notice" that would make the proposed solar array in Peterborough the largest in the state! What could possibly go wrong.
January 17, 2014 4:16 am
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