Bow seeks largest combined solar array in New Hampshire

Rendering of the landfill area in Bow on Falcon Way with solar panels

Rendering of the landfill area in Bow on Falcon Way with solar panels

By SRUTHI GOPALAKRISHNAN

Monitor staff

Published: 03-09-2024 1:07 PM

A proposed combined solar development in Bow would have nearly twice the capacity as the largest array in the state.

Currently, Manchester’s 3.3-megawatt capacity installation on a former landfill is the state’s largest single development. Bow’s proposed installation on town-owned properties and school buildings could bring 6 megawatts of capacity to the town if it is approved at next week’s town meeting.

In New Hampshire, solar net metering projects are capped at 5 megawatts. However, Bow plans to install solar arrays across three distinct sites on town and school property, effectively creating separate projects. This approach allows for a collective net-metering capacity of 6 megawatts.

Jessica Dunbar, chair of the energy committee, said the panel started exploring solar energy last fall to assist the municipality with long-term savings and efficiency.

“Having these multiple large sites gives greater economies of scale and that can offer greater financial benefits and so we were pretty excited about that opportunity here,” said Dunbar.

After assessing various sites in town, the Bow Energy Committee and Kearsarge Energy identified two town-owned properties – the closed landfill on Falcon Way and parts of the gravel pit on Allen Road – for solar arrays. On the school district side, Bow Elementary School and Bow Memorial School have been selected.

“These are really good locations ... the quarry, the landfill and the roofs. They’re great places to put solar because it’s an area where there’s really not much else you could do,” said Andrew Bernstein, founder and managing partner of Kearsarge Energy about possibly working with Bow.

On town-owned properties, the solar panels will be ground-mounted. On school buildings, they will be roof-top installations.

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Of the two proposals received, Kearsarge Energy suited the town best, said Dunbar. The other company was SunCommon, a Vermont-based renewable energy company.

If approved, Kearsarge Energy will cover installation and maintenance expenses and retain ownership of the arrays, with no cost to the town except for staff time and fees for contract negotiation.

The proposed solar project is expected to produce enough energy to offset the utility costs of powering the schools and municipal buildings, which currently consume 2.7 million kilowatts annually. The excess net metered kilowatt hours would be sold by Kearsarge Energy to other public utilities or customers.

While contract negotiations are for a 20-year lease, the warrant articles ask that the properties be leased for 30 years to provide flexibility. If a 20-year contract is agreed upon, the town could receive $2 million, and the school could receive $1 million in lease revenue and energy savings over the next two decades.

“It achieved several goals of being cost-effective, but also producing revenue and savings for the town. And also, making the town more environmentally conscious with the inclusion of renewable energy,” said Dunbar.

The revenue from the lease would go into the general fund, making way for potential tax cuts for residents, said Dunbar.