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GE Aviation to build solar panel car ports in parking lot for employees

Union Leader Correspondent

June 17. 2016 5:46PM
Chairman and CEO of General Electric Jeff Immelt left chats with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) during a tour of the GE Aviation complex in Hooksett in this 2015 file photo. (Reuters)

HOOKSETT — General Electric Aviation will soon have new solar panels in the company’s parking lot, after gaining the needed approval earlier this week.

The solar panels will be atop 14-foot beams, essentially creating carports for employees and allowing for plow trucks to drive underneath during the winter months. There will be six rows of panels above the parking spaces at the facility.

The project needed approval from the town’s Zoning Board of Adjustment because a couple of the panels went into the front yard setback. The board approved the project during its Tuesday meeting.

“They’re all set to go,” Town Planner JoAnn Duffy said.

The panels will help to power the 31 Industrial Drive facility, and net electric costs are expected to be cut by 10 percent a month, said Matt Lavoie, the code enforcement, building inspector and health officer for the town.

On average, company officials estimate they pay around $300,000 a month for electricity, according to Lavoie.

The panels will be installed and owned by GE Solar, another subsidiary of the company. Construction could begin as early as next month.

“If we gain approval, we expect to start in July,” said Edward Cherion Jr., a senior solar project manager at GE, in the Planning Board minutes from May 16. “It would be a 10- to 12-week process to get them built. We have to work to minimize closure of the parking lot.”

The Fire Department has also advised the company to work with a fire protection engineer to make sure the proper safety measures are in place, should a vehicle catch on fire while under the panels.

The project would have other added benefits for the company as well, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year.

“This project would be a great help to Hooksett for the GE site to stay competitive,” said Susan Niquette, GE Aviation’s environmental health and safety, and security leader, in the minutes.

The Hooksett facility has about 740 employees, who create rotating parts for military and commercial jet engines. The facility also broke ground on a $50 million expansion in May 2015.

This solar project could be a unique fixture not just for the company, but for the state as well.

“This may be the first solar canopy in New Hampshire,” Cherion said in the minutes. “There are many in Massachusetts and Vermont. The closest one of about this size is the Lincoln/Sudbury School in Massachusetts.

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