The Town Council of Derry, New Hampshire, has signed contracts for a 2.2 megawatt (MW) solar array to be built on a solid waste landfill that the town had closed and capped in 1998. The town owns the land, but because of its prior use, almost nothing can be built on it. A solar array turns that nearly useless land into a community resource and will also reduce carbon emissions by over 2,555 tons per year. The power generated by the solar project will be fed into the Town of Derry’s waste and waterworks facilities, where part of the electricity will be used. The remainder of the electricity will be exported to the grid and the town will be compensated for it by the local utility. The site still has potential to expand in the future.
The contract for the array was awarded to Encore Renewable Energy, of Burlington, Vermont. Encore will undertake nearly all of the necessary work to get the array built, including financing, design, construction, installation and operation. The project will be designated as Derry Solar, LLC.
The array will come with no upfront cost to the town. Nevertheless, it is projected that it will save the town $3.5 million over the term of the 25-year contract. That indicates a saving of about $140,000 per year, which is a substantial benefit for the town.
Recently passed Federal legislation announced by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) will support economic development and infrastructure projects across New Hampshire and accelerate installation of clean energy systems for communities to reduce energy expenses and meet sustainability goals. It’s anticipated that $500,000 will be provided to support the Derry Solar Project, helping further reduce the cost per kilowatt-hour about 10%, thus saving the town about $4 million over the Power Purchase Agreement contract’s lifetime (www.bit.ly/Derry-landfill-solar).
At 2.2MW, erected on seven acres of the 10-acre landfill site, the array will be one of the largest in New Hampshire. It will also set the town ahead of its schedule of having a net-zero renewable electric supply. The Town of Derry had a goal of getting to net-zero by 2025, but it now appears that it will be achieved about two years early, with this Derry Solar Project operating in late 2023.
Work on the specifics of the array was begun by the Net Zero Task Force over two years ago, though the group was started several years previously. The group includes engineers, business people, energy experts, and members of the public. Key organizations that have representation are schools, the Department of Public Works, the Planning Board, Code Enforcement, the Conservation Committee, and Economic Development.
The work done by the Net Zero Task Force was extensive. It had to coordinate communications with the people in the community, while supporting state legislation. It also had to get a buy-in from Governor Chris Sununu.
“Moving forward with this solar project is a major win for our community and our state,” said Joshua Bourdon, Derry Town Councilor-at-Large and founder of the Net Zero Task Force. “I ran for re-election with a promise to reduce our taxes while maintaining services through creative solutions. Achieving Net Zero Energy through the efforts of the Task Force and Derry Public Works Department contributed to that creative solution.”
Council Chairman Jeff Moulton added, “This project is the culmination of six years of planning and engineering work performed by the volunteers of the Net Zero Task Force. In advance of this project, the Task Force benchmarked the energy use of all 40 town and school buildings, implemented a number of energy initiatives that are currently saving the town over $900,000 per year, and in 2018 installed an 86-kilowatt solar project at the town’s transfer station, currently performing above its expected output.”
A competitive request for proposals was solicited by the Town of Derry in September of 2021. Seven companies submitted proposals, and Encore Renewable Energy was chosen from among them. Encore has also had considerable previous experience with brownfield and landfill development. Over a period of ten years, it has installed over 17MW of solar capacity on nine projects of this type.
“Encore provided the best value power purchase agreement proposal for the town,” according to Mike Fowler, Executive Director, Derry Public Works. “As a future partner, Encore brings experience and technical expertise to successfully develop this type of project. The favorable economics and experience with landfill solar development were the most important factors in awarding the contract to Encore.”
Chad Farrell, CEO and Founder of Encore Renewable Energy, said, “Tapping into the opportunity for sustainable energy development on under-valued properties like landfills is part of the DNA of our company,” said. “We’re excited to bring our deep expertise in the reuse of landfills as host sites for community-scale solar arrays to Derry to help support the community’s transition to the clean energy economy.”