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Dover officials hope to power city-owned property with solar energy

Union Leader Correspondent

June 12. 2018 8:37PM
Solar panels might be placed on the new high school being built in Dover. City officials are trying to be progressive with clean energy and see an opportunity if Gov. Chris Sununu signs SB 446 into law. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/Union Leader Correspondent)

DOVER — Dover officials hope to move forward with a feasibility study to see if they can power all municipal buildings and schools with solar energy.

City Manager Michael Joyal and Community Services Director John Storer explained Tuesday that the state’s cap on net metering will increase from 1 megawatt to 5 megawatts if Senate Bill 446 is signed into law by Gov. Chris Sununu.

Net metering is the process by which those who own solar panels sell their surplus electricity back into the grid as an offset to their electric bills

The bill has passed the New Hampshire House and Senate but has not yet reached Sununu’s desk.

Storer said a solar project is underway at the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire, which rents space from the city and is next to the city’s indoor swimming pool.

Dover’s joint building committee is also considering using solar panels to power the new high school being built on Alumni Drive, Storer said.

Storer and Assistant City Manager Chris Parker said they are considering putting a 25- to 30-acre solar array on the former municipal landfill on Tolend Road — which is a Superfund site — or undeveloped land on Mast Road.

Solar projects have been considered in the past, Storer and Parker said, but because of the state’s cap on net metering, officials declined to move forward.

In an email sent to city councilors, Joyal said developing a solar project to power municipal buildings and the schools would save a significant amount of money for the city. Councilors will hear more about the issue during their meeting Wednesday night.

If the feasibility study goes forward, city officials will work with Gaia Energy, LLC, of Madbury. The company has the scientific background to see if a large-scale solar project is worth the cost in Dover, Parker said.

“The feasibility study will tell us what production could be made or what savings would be incurred by the project,” Parker said. “We want to know what we don’t know regarding electricity production.”

An official at Sununu’s office said via email Tuesday that when SB 446 reaches the governor’s desk, he will carefully review the legislation before making a final determination in the coming weeks.

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