By Green Energy Times Staff
On Thursday, July 21, the town of Durham, N. H., had a ribbon cutting ceremony to inaugurate its municipal solar array in the adjacent town of Lee. Their solar system, the Oyster River Forest Solar Array, is rated at 651-kilowatts.
The new solar array is the largest project to date for the installer, ReVision Energy, which has offices in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. ReVision Energy did the engineering, designed, and installed the system, and will continue to provide any necessary maintenance. It was financed and is owned by IGS Solar, a turn-key commercial and residential solar provider.
The Town of Durham owns the site where the array was erected. At one time it had a gravel pit. It has a water well and an aquifer recharge system, in addition to the solar system. It is not a site that has many other available uses.
The new solar array was designed to generate 100% of Durham’s municipal electric load, aside from a waste-water treatment facility. It should produce excess power, and this will be credited to the Oyster River Cooperative School District to cover part of its electricity costs.
Charles Forcey, the chairman of the Durham Energy Committee, said at the ceremony, “The Oyster River Forest Solar Array is an unprecedented collaboration between two municipalities, two pioneering, private solar companies, a cooperative school district and the Public Utilities Commission of New Hampshire. With immense gratitude toward its partners in this utility-scale effort, the Town of Durham celebrates this landmark achievement toward our overarching goal to secure a clean, affordable and secure energy supply for our municipal services.”
The array was commissioned in June. It has 2,100 solar modules on fixed ground mounts arranged in fourteen rows. So far, it has produced about 4,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity each day. That, however, is summer production, when the sun is high and the days are long. Annually, the solar array is expected to generate about 859,300 kWh. This would reduce carbon dioxide emissions that would be produced by burning 1,553 barrels of oil or 75,823 gallons of gas. It is about the amount of electricity used by 115 average New Hampshire homes.
IGS Solar Vice President Patrick Smith said, “We are glad to be a long-standing sustainability partner to the Town of Durham by helping them control their energy costs with solar.” The project also qualified for a grant awarded by the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission.
Electricity provided to the Town of Durham was secured through a power purchase agreement (PPA), which is often the least expensive way for a municipality to buy its power. Under the PPA, the power is provided by IGS Solar, with maintenance provided by ReVision Energy. The Town of Durham will get nearly all of its electrical power from the sun, at no upfront cost.
The solar system for the Town of Durham is is the second largest yet built in the state of New Hampshire. Steve Hinchman, Director of Finance for the PPA division at ReVision Energy, said, “We’re honored to help the Town of Durham become one of the first New Hampshire towns to power itself with clean, renewable energy and to reduce fossil fuel use on a large scale.”