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Franconia, NH: Gale River Motel Now Powered by Solar Energy

Almost done. The fifty-two panel system at Gale River Motel in Franconia, NH has a peak power of 13.8 kW and is expected to produce a yearly total of 15,220 kWh. Photos courtesy of Gale River Motel.

Almost done. The fifty-two panel system at Gale River Motel in Franconia, NH has a peak power of 13.8 kW and is expected to produce a yearly total of 15,220 kWh. Photos courtesy of Gale River Motel.

By Kevin Johnson

In January 2016, the Gale River Motel, located in Franconia, NH, completed the installation of a photovoltaic roof-top array which will provide energy to satisfy the year-round electrical-power demand of the property. The fifty-two panel system has a peak power of 13.8 kW and is expected to produce a yearly total of 15,220 kWh.

The system will be directly wired into the power grid by means of an AC inverter that will allow electricity to flow to and from the power grid as necessary. During periods when the energy produced exceeds the demand of the motel, power will flow into the grid causing the motel’s electric meter to run in reverse, effectively crediting kilowatts to the motel. As demand surpasses production, during cloudy days or evening hours, the electric meter will draw kilowatts from the grid using up any electrical credits that have accrued. The generation and consumption of electricity has been designed to produce a “net-zero” effect, where over the course of the year, electricity produced will equal the electricity consumed.

The system costing approximately $40,000 is financed in part through Federal Tax Credits and a New Hampshire C & I rebate funded through the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission Sustainable Energy Division.

“The Gale River Motel has been a leader in the introduction of environmentally thoughtful technology and practices in New Hampshire’s lodging industry for several years.” stated Kevin Johnson, owner of the motel. “Several years ago, a solar hot water system was installed that paid for itself in less than two years. An aggressive campaign installing energy efficient doors and windows has helped reduce bottom-line heating and cooling costs throughout the year. The installation of a photo-voltaic system, while taking a bit longer to pay off makes lots of sense from a business perspective,” adds Johnson.

The system was installed by Renewable Energy Development Associates (REDA) of Portland, Maine. Will Kessler, of REDA, states “By going solar-powered, the Gale River Motel is shrewdly managing energy costs while reducing their carbon footprint by about 227 tons over the lifetime of the panels. Not only that, but as New Hampshire’s climate warms, and air-conditioning demand increases in the summer months, solar electricity produced at the motel helps to offset peak grid usage at times when customer need is greatest. We are happy to be doing business with Kevin and Gale River Motel, as they are the vanguard of clean energy in New Hampshire. Hopefully the future holds possibilities for continued partnerships. Tax incentives that had been scheduled to expire at the end of 2016 (but have now been extended to 2018) and recent threats by the New Hampshire legislature to re-direct PUC funding targeted towards solar-powered thermal and electrical projects prompted Johnson to act sooner rather than wait any longer to move forward on the installation of the system.”

The New Hampshire legislature is also struggling to renew the state’s policy of net-metering, despite the fact that net-metered solar systems are only one to two percent compared to the total grid load. “By keeping the net metering cap fixed at just two percent, the risk is the state’s solar industry becomes stagnant, or stunted” says Kessler. “Other states in the region have moved their net metering caps up as high as 15%, and seen tremendous growth of the solar industry in response.”

The system is designed to provide real-time information regarding the production and consumption of electricity through a computer monitoring interface. Johnson will be able to track electrical consumption and production on a minute-by-minute basis.

For more information or to schedule a tour of Gale River Motel’s solar initiatives, contact Kevin Johnson at 603-823-5655 or info@galerivermotel.com.

Kevin Johnson, owner of the Gale River Motel since 2002, has been working steadily on projects to increase the sustainability of the property.  The Gale River Motel was the first motel in the state recognized by the New Hampshire Sustainable Lodging and Restaurant Association as an Environmental Champion.

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