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February 04. 2014 10:17PM

Antioch students boost solar power in Keene

KEENE — The Monadnock Sustainability Network has partnered with a group of Antioch New England environmentalist students to create a solar community project in the Monadnock region.

Dubbed the Monadnock Community Solar Initiative the project aims to find local investors to build a solar array that area residents and businesses could use for their electricity needs.

The project is based off of community solar projects in Vermont and Massachusetts,” said Mari Brunner, an Antioch student who completing the project for credit toward her Master’s in Environmental Studies.

Just over the Connecticut River in Brattleboro, Vt., the Brattleboro Food Co-op recently built a community solar array on its roof, Brunner said as an example.

“It’s really booming in Colorado. They call it solar gardens out there,” Brunner said. “We think this is the first community solar project in the Monadnock region.”

It’s an opportunity for people in the community to invest in renewable energy and gain a small financial return on their investment, Brunner said.

“We’re looking for anyone in the community that wants to be involved. It will take an investment in either time, energy or money. We want it to be something that everything will support.”

Then electricity customers in the area have an opportunity to purchase the solar power that is from a renewable energy source at a good price, Brunner said.

Community solar projects help the country move toward energy independence, reduce emissions and pollutants and are a way to fight rising fuel costs, Brunner said.

The Monadnock Community Solar Initiative is aiming to raise about $50,000 to $60,000 for the project.

“There’s an educational component to just to show people there are other ways to get it. You don’t have to be independently wealthy to get it on your roof,” Brunner said.

According to a press release from the group, “Falling installation costs and creative new financing models have made solar projects more financially feasible, and funders can expect to see an attractive return on investment.”

John Kondos, a founding member of the Monadnock Sustainability Network and local energy company Solar Source, said “Community solar is an emerging segment of the fast-paced solar market.”

The Antioch team plans to release an initial feasibility study for the project in mid-March with suggested locations.

By May, when the students have completed their study, a core group of citizens should be ready to develop the proposed plan, Brunner said.

People interested in the project are can reach Kondos at jkondos@home-efficiency.com.

mpierce@newstote.com


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