New Hampshire Electric Cooperative (NHEC) has begun construction of what will be the largest solar electric array in the state, a two megawatt (MW) system that will provide its members a clean source of electricity located on NHEC’s own distribution system.
The ground-mounted solar photovoltaic (PV) system, consisting of approximately 8,000 panels, will take shape over the next several months on land owned by NHEC adjacent to its substation on Moultonborough Neck Road in Moultonborough. It is expected to be online by the end of 2017 and producing approximately 3.5 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per year for the next 25 years or more, enough power for approximately 600 homes.
The Moultonborough solar array will displace electricity NHEC would otherwise have to purchase and pay to have imported from outside its system, and will generate Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) that NHEC can either use to meet its requirements under the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard or can sell to other electricity providers.
Costs for wholesale generating capacity and transmission, which have risen dramatically in recent years, have been of considerable concern to NHEC and its members. At current costs, the Moultonborough project’s output is expected to save NHEC more than $280,000 per year in costs it would otherwise incur for purchase and delivery of the same products at wholesale from sources outside its system. After factoring in the cost of construction and the expected savings, the power from the project is expected to immediately have a net cost comparable to conventionally produced power imported by NHEC from the regional market.
NHEC President and CEO Steve Camerino noted, “Although it will cover a small portion of our members’ total electricity needs, one of the biggest benefits of this project is the price stability it offers. Wholesale power prices can vary widely, but this project will provide NHEC’s members a reliable source of renewable energy at a fixed cost for at least the next 25 years. The Moultonborough solar project will allow NHEC to build on its experience operating two smaller solar PV systems that currently power our district offices in Raymond and Sunapee by exploring how a larger system will work in conjunction with our facilities and whether such installations elsewhere on our system might make sense.”
The project will also support NHEC’s efforts to explore new initiatives that can benefit members, including utility-scale power storage that can help further reduce the financial impact of periods of peak demand when wholesale power prices to the utility spike.
The total cost of the Moultonborough solar array is approximately $5 million, which is financed by low interest New Clean Energy Renewable Bonds (NCREBs) made available by the U.S. Treasury Department for public sector renewable energy projects. NHEC has engaged Ameresco, Inc. of Framingham, MA to build the 2 MW array. Engineering services are being provided by McCourt Engineering of Henniker, NH.
NHEC is a member-owned electric distribution cooperative serving 84,000 homes and businesses in 115 New Hampshire communities.