In an.article published in the New Hampshire Union Leader on December 25, 2017, correspondent John Koziol described the efforts of the New Hampshire Electric Co-op in Moultonborough to bring the state’s largest solar array online, an effort he described as “close to success.”
Today, the NHEC Moultonborough Solar Project, the state’s largest solar PV array, is online and producing power. The 2 MW array features 7,200 panels over 12 acres of land in Moultonborough, New Hampshire near an NHEC substation off Shaker Jerry Road on Moultonborough Neck.
According to co-op spokesman Seth Wheeler, the electricity generated at the site is enough to power approximately 600 homes, including 84,000 members in 115 cities and towns. NHEC plans to use the array to help offset peak power costs, as well as save on transmission and capacity costs. It will also provide an opportunity for the company to explore utility scale battery storage programs. NHEC is a member-owned electric distribution cooperative serving 84,000 homes and businesses in 115 New Hampshire communities. It is currently the largest solar electric array in the Granite State.
The $5 million 2-megawatt ground-mounted solar photovoltaic system includes 7,200 panels and 40 inverter. The system is expected to produce 3.3 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year.
Wheeler added that the co-op says the array will save members nearly $300,000 a year by reducing the amount of electricity the co-op buys on the wholesale market. It will also generate renewable energy credits to meet New Hampshire’s Renewable Portfolio Standard and allow the co-op to explore battery-storage technology.
The project, which represents the co-op’s initial foray into making energy, is financed through New Clean Energy Renewable Bonds from the U.S. Treasury Department.
“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,” said NHEC President and CEO Steve Camerino, in a statement. “Wholesale power prices can vary widely,” he continued, “but this project will provide NHEC’s members a reliable source of renewable energy at a fixed cost, with a projected lifespan of a quarter century or longer,”
Camerino said the Moultonborough solar project builds on the co-op’s experience operating two smaller solar photovoltaic systems at its district offices in Raymond and Sunapee, and may help the utility determine “whether such installations elsewhere on our system might make sense.”
Also, after factoring in the cost of construction and the expected savings, the cost of power from the Moultonborough project will immediately have a “net cost on par with conventionally produced power.”
The Moultonborough project also embraces environmental considerations, including leaving all stumps in place to prevent erosion; a perimeter fence with rounded instead of barbed wire, to protect deer. To keep deer out of the array field, the co-op has planted clover outside of it. The co-op also has built a berm on the outside of the array field to create a wildlife habitat and to mitigate the project’s visual impact.
There have been some comparable projects: Completed in 2015, the 579-megawatt Solar Star project in California was the world’s largest photovoltaic power station, but has since been eclipsed by the Tengger Desert Solar Park in China, which is producing 1500 megawatts.
While the co-op’s Moultonborough project is the state’s largest now, that distinction may not last long, because several larger projects have been proposed, among them a 65-megawatt photovoltaic facility in Hinsdale.