Attempts to establish a solar panel array for Derry’s Transfer Station got a second chance at earning approval during the Town Council’s latest meeting on Jan. 2.
The plan for the system has been an ongoing project for the past few months, led by the likes of the Energy and Environmental Advisory Committee, Net Zero Task Force Committee and Council Chairman Joshua Bourdon.
Costing three hundred thousand dollars to kick start the project, the system would consist of two hundred and forty ground mounted, three hundred and sixty watt panels. Insured to last at least twenty five years, the system would produce roughly fifty thousand kilowatts per hour (kWh) for the Transfer Station and another one hundred and five thousand, two hundred kWh for the Wastewater Treatment plant.
Furthermore, on top of receiving three thousand, eight hundred and eighty dollars annually via Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) and causing no impact to the tax rate, the resolution asserted that avoid over twenty thousand dollars worth of costs annually within just over a decade.
However, when the plan was put forth for approval by the council back on Dec. 19, it failed to receive enough votes to be confirmed, losing with four vote for, and three votes against, as several councilors did not believe that the project would be economically viable as presented.
But since then, Councilor Charles Foote, one of the three councilors to vote against the plan, requested that the council reconsider the vote during this latest meeting.
Foote established near the beginning of the meeting that prior to the first vote, many residents reached out to him and opposed the plan. Having run for his position as a non-partisan candidate and wanting to keep the public’s opinion in mind above all else, their opinions are what led to his prior vote.
“Personally, I’m not opposed to this, but I was in a torn situation last meeting”, Foote noted.
But since then, Foote received more feedback from residents, many in favor of the solar plan. As such, Foote requested that the council take a second vote on the matter, but only after having received a more in-depth presentation on what the plan would bring to Derry.
Thus, Michael Fowler, Derry’s Director of Public Works, as well as a representative from Granite State Solar, Erik Shifflett, came before the council to go into more detail about the project. During his presentation, Shifflett established that the panels would be rear-conducted models that were manufactured by LG and were of the highest quality possible, so much so that he even has some installed at his own home.
More importantly to the councilors was Shifflett’s overview of the fiscal aspect of the plan, wherein he explained that the general fund would cover the costs of the project over the next ten years, on top of a three percent interest rate. The waterworks would then pay back to the general fund payments based on the electricity produced by the panels, leading to a minor tax decrease of one cent per year.
There would also be a ten thousand dollar decommission fee if the town chose to cut off the system at any time, but Shifflett finished by noting that based on various scenarios concerning inflation, the project could possibly save the town anywhere from three hundred thousand dollars to over four hundred and seventy thousand dollars on energy over twenty five years.
The council still had numerous questions for the pair, including specifics about the technology of the system and one particular question from Councilor Phyllis Katsakiores about why they were unable to use US manufacturers of solar panels. To this, Shifflett admitted that the US market for solar panels is not in the best of shape and they simply wanted to use the best, most effective products for their projects.
“If there was a way to for us to put American made panels on here…we would do it”, Shifflett stated.
But the discussion ended on a much more positive note than previously, with councilors such as Richard Tripp, who had also previous voted against the project, thanking the two for their presentation, noting that it was far more informative than previous ones.
In the end, the council unanimously approved the project, which is expected to start during the spring.