PETERBROUGH — A planned solar array to power the town’s wastewater treatment plant could power most – if not all – of the town’s municipal buildings, Selectman Joe Byk said Wednesday, which could save the town about $25,000 each year.
“We originally thought it would only power the wastewater plant that was the original dream and then it seemed we were going to have excess power and now we are thinking we can power all, if not most, of our town buildings,” Byk said. “We’re going to produce more than required by the wastewater plant and the excess will be used by the town to reduce its energy costs.”
Powering the wastewater plant with solar energy was an idea Byk had seven years ago while the plant was still being planned, he said. He was inspired after learning about Portsmouth’s plan for a solar array at their wastewater plant, he said.
When the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission announced the grant, Peterborough officials jumped on the chance to fund the solar array, he said.
It was a competitive application process but Peterborough won and was granted $1.2 million by the state’s Executive Council last week.Borrego Solar of Lowell, Mass., has agreed to take on the remaining costs and is to install ground-mounted solar panels near the wastewater treatment plant.
That means the $2.6 million project is not costing the town a dime, Byk said.
Borrego will own and operate the solar array and town officials have agreed to sign a 20-year contract with Borrego to purchase the electricity the array produces.
The project is to be built next to the new wastewater treatment plant, where the town’s old septic lagoons are being phased out.
Construction is planned to begin this year and to be completed by the spring of 2015.
The solar array would become the state’s largest, with approximately 1,174,280 kWh to be generated each year, Byk said, compared with the current largest at the Manchester airport parking garage, which that produces approximately 500 kWh.
The town is guaranteed a cost of 8 cents per kWh, compared to its current average cost of about 9 cents per kHw.The numbers and benefits of the project were hotly debated at the Executive Council meeting last week.Councilor Chris Sununu, R-Newfields, was the only opposing voice on the vote, saying the only benefit would be to Peterborough.Byk said Wednesday the project will benefit the state since Peterborough will serve as a template for other renewable energy projects across the state.
“Of course there is a direct benefit to Peterborough, but we now serve as a leader in energy conservation basically statewide,” Byk said. “It’s a really happy event for Peterborough and I believe the state of New Hampshire.”