USDA and FAA Approve Two Solar Systems (65.6 kW and 61.5 kW) Near Dillant Hopkins Airport
By Chris Gillespie
Residents of Swanzey, NH might be surprised to learn that there are several solar photovoltaic (PV) arrays located on the eastern boundary of the Dillant Hopkins Airport.
The arrays are on the 13.5 acres of property that belong to Bob Furlone, the retired owner of American Construction who now focuses on another area of interest, real estate development.
“They’re hard to see,” said Furlone about the solar arrays in a recent phone interview with Green Energy Times. “I don’t think people know they’re even there.”
Furlone’s property is home to three solar arrays: one 8kW roof-mounted system and two ground-mounted systems, one which is 65.6 kW and another that is 61.5 kW. All of the arrays were installed by Solar Source based in Keene, NH.
“Solar Source is a joy to work with. Right from breaking the ground to the follow-up—they’re right there,” said Furlone about the commercial and residential solar specialists. “They’re a top-notch organization.”
After having the 8kW rooftop system installed on top of a building he was renting out in 2011, Furlone set out to design a storage facility for his property that would be topped by another rooftop solar array. However, after analyzing the various other needs and costs of the prospective storage facility, Furlone decided to scrap the project and keep the only component that he was really excited about: the solar array. This became the first ground-mounted 65.6kW system on Furlone’s property.
The funding for this solar array was aided by a grant from the USDA’s REAP, or Rural Energy for America Program. As outlined on the USDA’s website, REAP “provides guaranteed loan financing and grant funding to agricultural producers and rural small businesses for renewable energy systems or to make energy efficiency improvements.” The article, “New Hampshire Rural Renewables” on page 15 of this issue discusses the REAP program further.
After a lengthy application process, Furlone was approved by the USDA for his grant. Given his property’s proximity to the Dillant Hopkins Airport, Furlone also had to receive approval from the FAA before building the solar arrays.
Furlone participates in the State of New Hampshire’s group net-metering program, where he hosts the utility meters that the solar electricity generation flows through before entering the electric grid. Besides the host, there are others who benefit from the solar electricity production. One of the members of the group Furlone hosts is the Cheshire YMCA’s Camp Takodah in Richmond, NH, an overnight camp that specializes in programs for boys and girls ages 7 through 15. The solar electricity generated on Furlone’s property helps offset part of the camp’s energy demand.
In addition, Furlone partakes in the EPA’s Green Power Partnership by selling the rights to the non-power attributes of the solar arrays produced on his property in the form of Renewable Energy Certificates, or RECs. RECs allow others who do not have or cannot have a solar or wind system of their own to purchase renewable energy while incentivizing investors like Furlone to install solar PV systems.
Although applying for government funding and selling RECs can be difficult at times, Furlone encourages other real estate developers and likeminded entrepreneurs to join the growing renewable energy marketplace.
“You have to understand tax law, and you need to have a certain appetite for federal taxes, but you end up getting accelerated depreciation, which is important,” said Furlone, adding that he has no regrets about entering the business.
For Furlone, working with solar arrays and RECs has been rewarding, both as a long-term business venture and as a way of helping protect the environment.
“[My wife and I] are big believers in this. It’s a really good business investment,” said Furlone. “We’re very pleased with what we’ve done so far, and we’re, hopefully, going to do more.”
Although Furlone is uncertain about what or when his next move will be with solar power, he remains committed to doing his part to foster sustainable sources of energy.
“My wife and I believe in renewables—they’re the way to go. It doesn’t matter that the cost of gasoline keeps going down,” said Furlone. “Just keep plugging away with renewables. That’s the way to solve the climate crisis.”
Chris Gillespie is a contributing writer for Green Energy Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.