Following unanimous voter approval in July of a plan to build the largest solar array in the state on the site of a former sewage lagoon, the Peterborough Select Board is in the process of finalizing details of a 20-year lease agreement for the land with Borrego Solar, the Lowell, Mass., company that will build and operate the solar array. When it’s complete, the array will cover about 3.5 acres and is expected to generate enough electricity to power the town’s wastewater plant, with any excess to be returned to the PSNH grid and credited to town buildings.
Peterborough will pay Borrego 8 cents per kilowatt hour for the electricity, and at July’s special Town Meeting, Select Board Chair Barbara Miller said the town could expect to save between $24,000 and $57,000 per year. On Friday, DPW Director Rodney Bartlett said the town had just received the OK from the Department of Environmental Services to begin filling in the former sewage lagoon where the array will sit. He said Borrego should be able to start construction in mid-November and the array should be in operation by May next year.
Now, following on the heels of the Peterborough project, two other groups are working with Borrego to develop other solar arrays. Jaffrey has applied to the N.H. Public Utilities Commission for a $1.1 million grant that would help fund a 995,500 kilowatt array — nearly as large as the one planned in Peterborough — on the site of a former town landfill that has been closed for more than 20 years. And the consortium of eight local towns and the Jaffrey-Rindge School District, which has been purchasing electricity collaboratively for about five years, according to Bartlett, is seeking a Public Utilities Commission grant to cover half the construction costs of a $2.6 million array, at a site still to be determined.
For Jaffrey, a functional solar array has the potential to significantly lower sewer rates, according to Town Manager Dave Caron. That would certainly be good news for residents. And the collaborative project would enable both some of the smaller towns in the region like Hancock, Temple, Francestown and Dublin, which might not be able to tackle the cost and financing requirements for a solar array on their own, and larger entities like Peterborough, Jaffrey, Rindge and the Jaffrey-Rindge School District, to take advantage of a renewable source of energy.
Peterborough’s project wouldn’t have moved forward without a PUC grant, which covered a significant portion of the cost of the array. Both Jaffrey and the Monadnock Buying Collaborative are proposing similar plans, and we hope they will be successful in their applications.