Newport voters approved by a margin of 652 to 235 a 2.2-MW solar energy project capable of providing the entire annual energy needs for Newport town and school facilities. The solar installation will be the largest municipal project in New Hampshire and one of the state’s largest overall.
Likewise, the solar arrays will make Newport the largest town in the state to net its entire municipal and school district energy demand from solar energy.
The town vote last night authorized the town and school district to enter into a 25-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with local solar developer Norwich Solar Technologies for the project.
The project will serve the district offices and the town’s three schools, as well as all town-owned facilities, including the public library, airport, wastewater treatment plant, as well as the police, EMS and fire departments.
Town manager Hunter F. Reiseberg said, “Being the ‘Sunshine Town’ we thought that it was appropriate that the town embrace solar power as a means of offsetting our carbon footprint and saving the taxpayers’ money along the way.”
In the past two years, Newport has converted all of its offices and street lighting systems to LEDs. In May 2018 the town and Norwich Solar Technologies will begin construction of the 2.2-MW solar arrays that will offset 100% of the electrical power requirements for the municipality, the school district, the library, as well as the police and fire departments.
“We will, in short, be net zero and are already seeing significant savings. It has been a home run!” said Rieseberg. Net zero means the total power used by the municipal and school buildings on a yearly basis is equivalent to the amount of power created by renewable sources.
A PPA allows the town and schools to buy energy created by the solar array at a discount without having to provide any capital investment for the project. The PPA calls for the placement of solar PV arrays at the closed town landfill and on land adjacent to the wastewater treatment plant. The land selected for the solar arrays are either under-utilized or currently not developable.
Work on the project will begin immediately and, upon commissioning, the town will see immediate savings, with greater savings as energy prices rise over time—historically 2-3% annually. The PPA also includes a provision allowing Newport the opportunity to purchase the solar arrays at a substantial discount in the future.
In addition, “projects of this type typically help attract and retain forward-looking commercial and industrial companies and industrial businesses,” said Norwich Solar’s CEO Jim Merriam. “We applaud the real leadership Newport has shown as well as the cooperation by the facilities department, School Board, School Superintendent, Select Board and voters to make this marquee project a reality.”
Norwich Solar Technologies representative Don McCormick, who has managed the project for the past year said, “In addition to the long-term energy savings from this multi-million-dollar project provided at no cost to the town, there are the added benefits of protection from volatility in an unstable electricity market, energy independence, contributions to a clean energy economy, and educational opportunities for school STEM programs.”
News item from Newport