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Derry council reconsiders solar project, approves on second

Union Leader Correspondent

January 03. 2018 11:57PM

DERRY — After rejecting a solar project at the transfer station last month, the Derry Town Council on Tuesday night reconsidered then approved the proposal.

The council, 7-0, accepted a supplemental appropriation to install a solar panel array that will last a minimum of 25 years, with the town expected to see a return on investment within 12 years.

The system cost was approved at $282,400 and includes a $58,812 rebate for a net cost of $241,188. Once operational, the annual electricity cost saving is projected to be $20,176, producing 155,200 kilowatt hours shared between the transfer station and wastewater treatment plant.

The council’s turnaround comes less than a month after the board spurned the project in a 4-3 vote, with opponents saying the presentation did not provide enough detail for them to pass it.

On Tuesday night, Erik Shifflett of the Bow-based Granite State Solar, appeared before the board to review his company’s pitch — 10 ground-mounted tracking units on a southwest facing slope adjacent to the transfer station, with each tracking unit equipped with 24 high-output, 360-watt solar panels.

The high-end units follow the path of the sun throughout the day to optimize production, he said. The panels are produced by LG while the tracker equipment, to which the panels attach, are made in Vermont.

Shifflett said the panels are designed to last and are under warranty for 25 years. The trackers have a 10-year warranty and have been built to “go flat” in heavy wind, snow or below zero conditions to prevent damage.

“The warranty on these panels says they will be putting out at least 87 percent of their rated (power) 25 years from now, there will never be a need or a reason to upgrade or change them other than perhaps adding to the array by building somewhere else,” he added. “Those panels warranty is designed to withstand desert conditions — wind scouring, acid rain — we actually have a very favorable environment.”

Mike Fowler of the Department of Public Works estimates a cumulative savings of between $249,000 and $469,000, with low inflation and a solid interest rate.

Construction will likely take two weeks in the spring after the ground thaws and could be operations sometime before June, according to Shifflett.

The Department of Public Works launched an initiative in early 2017 to determine the most favorable municipal buildings for solar. By July, they presented the results to the council and put out a request for proposals in September for the transfer station.

Councilor Charlie Foote, who initially voted against the project, called for a reconsideration vote after hearing from constituents who favored solar power at the station.

“I think many might not agree with me, but I think this is a good learning tool for all of us and I think it’s a good opportunity to better show what solar is and what it’s not,” he said.

Other councilors who rejected the proposal in December said they were happy with the updated presentation. Even Chairman Joshua Bourdon, an avid supporter of the project, thanked the bidders for “stepping up their game.”

Prior to the council’s reconsideration of the solar project, several residents spoke for and against the proposal.

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