Solar energy will be available to more Derry residents and businesses, thanks to an innovative partnership with the Southern New Hampshire Planning Commission (SNHPC).
Jeff Moulton and Marc Flattes, volunteers with the effort, spoke at the July 7 Town Council meeting on the “Solar Up” program.
In a PowerPoint presentation, Moulton explained that Solar Up New Hampshire is a partnership involving the Southern New Hampshire Planning Commission, SmartPower, the New Hampshire Sustainable Energy Association, New England Grassroots Environment Fund, and Hillsborough County Area Renewable Energy Initiative (HAREI), with support from the John Merck Fund.
Moulton, an alternate representative to the SNHPC, said the program is designed to help accelerate the growth of residential and commercial solar across the region using a proven model, “Solarize,” using the following elements: Community leadership; local volunteers; a pre-selected, competitively chosen solar installer; tiered pricing, so the price goes down the more people sign up; and a clear end date for a solarize campaign that lasts 16-20 weeks.
Moulton said Derry has about 15 solar-powered homes. With this program, the goal is to put in several hundred more, he said.
Moulton said the market rate for installation without the program is $4 per watt, but the cost to Derry residents will be $3.50 per watt.
Moulton said he and Flattes have been working with Planning Director George Sioras, Information Technology Director Doug Rathburn, and Building Inspectors Bob Mackey and Bob Wentworth to lay the groundwork.
He has also talked with Chris Harper, academic dean at Pinkerton Academy, to see if any of the engineering classes want to be involved.
New Hampshire has one of the highest energy costs in the nation, at 18 cents per watt, Moulton said. The impact of the solar program would be to reduce electricity costs, emissions and the town’s carbon footprint.
Moulton said, “Whatever your initial system costs, you will get about half of it back in rebates. There is a fund in the Public Utilities Commission for a maximum of $3,750, and there is also a Federal tax credit.”
Flattes said, “This program provides a lot of unique benefits. It lowers taxes and other costs. There is little to no money out of the community’s pocket, because the program relies a lot on volunteerism.”
“If you have the cash to do it up front, great! If you don’t, the vendor has a financing program,” Flattes said. The “payback” is seven to nine years, he said. Leasing programs are also available, but the leasing company collects the rebates and the homeowner doesn’t own the solar panels.
For a small home in Durham, the payback was about eight years, Moulton said.
Flattes said a meeting with department heads, Town Councilors, and civic groups is planned for Aug. 31 in the Council chambers, with the vendor present. The vendor chosen was ReVision Energy, with offices in Exeter, Concord, Liberty, Maine and Portland, Maine. ReVision will serve both Derry and Chester, who are partnered in the solar initiative.
Town Councilor Phyllis Katsakiores asked if any other towns were involved, and Moulton said it was rolled out in the Upper Valley last year. Other Southern New Hampshire towns involved are Candia, Deerfield, New Boston and Goffstown.
“Have you had any complaints?” Katsakiores asked. Moulton said no but added, “People don’t know that much about solar power, and they’re afraid to make that jump.”
Councilor Joshua Bourdon asked, “What separates the company we’re going with from others?”
Moulton said the Request For Proposals was written by SNHPC. “We looked at responses from New Hampshire, Colorado and Vermont. Maureen Reno, Marc and I came up with the criteria,” he said. “We looked at scale, price and the fact that it was a local company. Those were the three biggest criteria.”
Mouilton said the typical installation is120 days from the day of signing the contract. The program will run September through November. That doesn’t mean all the installations will be done, but that is the time to sign up. Other towns have found that works better than leaving it open-ended, he said.
Bourdon asked if there was a goal and Moulton said they were shooting for 100 installations but would be hoping for up to 300.
“How are we going to be advertising?” Bourdon asked.
Flattes said, “We are going to expand our social media. We are working with Channel 17 and 23. We will also be doing a mailing the vendor is responsible for. We will be doing hand-outs at Derryfest and maybe some yard signs. We may ask Mike Fowler about using the message boards. We are going to use equipment and resources we already have.”
Chairman Tom Cardon asked how long the Federal energy credit would be available and Moulton said through 2016.
For more information visit solarupnh.,com or e-mail Moulton at [email protected], Flattes at [email protected] or Maureen Reno, chairman of the Energy and Environmental Advisory Committee, at HYPERLINK “mailto:[email protected]” [email protected].