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Solar Power On Display – and At Work – at NH Electric Co-op
By Penny Williams   3-19-114

The Raymond district office of New Hampshire Electric Co-op (NHEC) at 266 Route 27 has gone solar. The solar photovoltaic panels are in place and working, and the energy produced will make it a net-zero facility in terms of electric use.

Gary Lemay, Renewable Energy engineer for NHEC, said this is the second of the Co-op’s offices to go solar. The Sunapee District office has a similar solar array but only produces about half of the electric energy needed for that office.

“We had the space in Raymond where we didn’t have to remove too many trees to put in enough of the solar panels to cover the average annual electric usage,” he said. “The solar will offset all the electric use in the Raymond office. We put up 160 panels, each producing 250 watts DC. We anticipate producing about 44,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year.”

Lemay said anyone interested in seeing what the solar panels are producing can go to www.nhec.com, and find charts and tracking of the kilowatt hours produced and the gallons of fuel saved. Payback will take 10 years. The Web site will also provide weather and other details.

The NHEC is using solar arrays for two reasons. One is to have the capability to show the public how solar works and how it can benefit those who use it, thus making the solar-powered array an important educational tool.

In addition, NHEC must provide a certain amount of renewable energy or pay the Public Utility Commission for its failure to do so. The mandate to meet its renewable energy portfolio requires the company to provide 20 to 25 percent of its energy through renewable sources. The solar-powered facilities go toward meeting that mandate. In addition, they reduce the amount of electric power the company has to purchase from Public Service Company of New Hampshire (PSNH).

“We want to educate and inform the public and our members and our employees,” said Seth Wheeler, communications administrator for NHEC. “Live solar power in Raymond and Sunapee makes it possible for us to meet our compliance requirements and to be able to educate the general public. The value to the company is it will pay for itself in nine or 10 years and then it is free power for us.”

The panels have a 25-year warranty and a life expectancy of 40 to 50 years. There is no upkeep or maintenance.

The recent up-tick in electric power costs, Co-op officials explained, is due to the extremely cold weather this winter. Most of the Co-op power is bought by contracts and the majority is pre-bought so prices are stabilized, but the weather extremes this winter have forced companies to purchase some power off the open market, where the prices are higher, leading to a price increase for consumers.

Forty percent of electricity in New England is generated by natural gas, Co-op officials note. In winter, natural gas is also used for home heating, making it a limited resource. The result is that the price of natural gas goes up, leading to price spikes that ramp up wholesale electric energy costs.

“We need another reliable source of power for the New England area,” Lemay said. “Solar is a good renewable energy that is compatible and good for the environment. Despite what many people think, winter is a good time for the production of solar energy.”

NHEC offers programs designed to help businesses and individual homes improve their energy efficiency. The NHEC also has programs and incentives for people interested in moving to renewable energy sources such as solar hot water or solar photovoltaic panels for energy production.

NHEC invites its members to seek information about solar power generation by visiting the Raymond district office. For more information, call Seth Wheeler at 800-698-2007, ext. 8685.

 


 

Solar Array Coming to Raymond
By Carolyn Matthews 10-9-13

The New Hampshire Electric Cooperative (NHEC) facility in Raymond is, literally, lifting its face to the sun.  The cooperative received Planning Board approval on October 3, 2013 to install a solar photovoltaic array over approximately 5,000 square feet of ground area at its present location on Route 27 between Clearwater Estates Condominiums and Palmer Gas (Raymond Tax Map 38, Lot 6).

The solar panels will sit 48 inches above ground at a 49-degree angle to allow maximum sun exposure and easy snow melt. The panels will be attached to aluminum or galvanized pipes buried 12 to 15 feet into the ground, creating a fence-like effect.   The facility will include inverters to change DC to AC current and will also include an “environmental station” allowing operators to glean detailed real-time information from the site.

The solar array will power the NHEC office in Raymond and will also serve as a demonstration site to help promote better understanding of solar energy. Gary Lemay, a renewable energy engineer who spoke on behalf of NHEC, explained that the cost of installation will come from the social and environmental portion of the company’s budget, and that the project is in keeping with NHEC’s mission and goals.

Lemay spoke at length to the board about advancements in solar technology, falling costs of solar panels, and competition between manufacturers.  “The heat pump and inside pump that I installed in my own home would cost half as much today,” he said. Lemay encouraged the board and the public to visit its solar array in Sunapee, where a similar array is meeting 50 percent of the energy needs at the Sunapee District Office.

NHEC solar array

  Solar Photovoltaic Array under construction in Sunapee - Courtesy photo         www.nhec.com/news_archieve

The company hopes to complete installation for about half the Raymond project before winter, finishing the project in the spring as funding allows. Once the array is up and running, the public and especially school children are welcome to tour the facility. 

“Our Raymond property is a perfect location for the array,” Lemay explained.” The area sits in a slight bowl that maximizes sun exposure.”

Responding to Planning Board questions, he explained that the area will be dug out to install the underground conduits and the fence line, and the surface will then be returned to pre-development land contours. Only two trees over 50 feet high that might threaten the array will be removed, and visual vegetated buffers between the array and Route 27 as well as Patriot Way will remain.  No noise, no traffic and no light will impact the neighborhood since an array of this sort requires next to no maintenance.

A 4-foot-high green vinyl fence will surround the array.  Raymond Planning Technician Robert Price noted that Raymond’s Technical Review Committee found no objection to the plan or to the five requested waivers from Raymond’s site plan map requirements.

Voting unanimously to approve the application were Chairman Jonathan Wood, alternate Don Hedman, members Bill Cantwell and Gretchen Gott, and Selectman representative Bill Hoitt. Absent were Harry McClard, Maurice Titcomb and Steve Wallerstein.

In other businesses the board held a brief discussion on potential zoning articles, most of which will need to be delayed until next year due to the zoning calendar deadlines, and then discussed work in progress on a revised vision statement for the Master Plan. The board will meet next on October 10, 2013 to continue the Master Plan revision work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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