solar energy

Allison Quantz for NHPR

A New Hampshire planning board has approved a proposal allowing Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center to build a solar array southeast of its campus parking lots.

The Valley News reports the Lebanon planning board's decision Monday includes conditions that the hospital receive state wetlands and terrain approval before construction begins on the 1.25-megawatt solar array.

The hospital must also plant 20 additional trees to provide shade to cars and improve parking lot appearances.

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More homeowners and businesses can now take advantage of a financial incentive for installing solar power.

A bill signed by Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan on Monday lifts the cap on a program called net metering, which allows solar power generators to sell the energy they don't use back into the electric grid. An existing cap limits how many megawatts can be sold back into the grid, and this legislation doubles the cap. It takes effect immediately.

Hassan says lifting the cap will help New Hampshire's clean energy industry "grow and thrive."

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The New Hampshire house has backed a measure to lift the cap on a key solar energy program.

Currently, those generating solar power in New Hampshire can be reimbursed for sending excess energy back to the grid, but the cap on that reimbursement program is set at 50 megawatts. The House measure would increase that to 100 megawatts. 

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Officials say plans to build an 8.5-megawatt solar project in Merrimack County can't proceed until more people are allowed to net meter.

Franklin Mayor Ken Merrifield tells the Concord Monitor the solar installation, slated to become the largest in the state, would help halve the city's electric bill.

The project has received municipal approval, but Merrifield says the project is made financially viable through net metering, which lets customers sell excess solar power back into the grid.

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Lancaster could become the first town in the North Country to extensively use solar energy to help cover its electric costs. But that’s contingent on getting an okay from voters next month.

The proposal, going before voters at the March town meeting, would pay for a series of solar panels providing about 121 kilowatts, says town planner Ben Gaetjens-Oleson.

“We’re looking at placing three solar arrays at two locations, one at the transfer station, one at the waste-water lagoon to run the aerators and one also at the lagoons for the chlorinator building," he said.

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Many analysts seem to be taking the stock markets recent swings in stride, saying the broader U.S. economy is on stronger footing.  Still, there are concerns, especially China's economic woes.

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 The future of solar power in the Granite State was front and center in the New Hampshire statehouse Wednesday, as law makers presented a deal to extend a program that has been crucial to the development of the state’s solar energy industry called net metering.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

A Democrat running for governor is calling on New Hampshire to raise and possibly eliminate the limit on how much renewable power consumers can sell back to the state's utilities.

Under "net metering", consumers who use sources such as solar can earn credits for putting power back on the grid. The current limit in the state is 50 megawatts and the state's utilities are closing in on that figure.

Gubernatorial candidate Colin Van Ostern said Monday the state should immediately raise the cap and consider erasing it altogether.

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In recent years, New Hampshire has seen rapid growth in solar power. With the approaching cap on a solar development incentive known as net metering, though, many in the industry say they can’t expand much more.  We’ll find out what’s going on, and how bright or dim the future might be for solar in the Granite State.

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Solar energy is big business in New Hampshire right now. Enough projects have submitted at least preliminary applications to add up to more than a 400 percent increase from 2014.

Via USDA website

A compromise is in the works to raise the limit on the number of solar panels being installed on New Hampshire's electricity grid. The deal would likely result in less revenue for solar owners, but would allow the current boom in solar installations to continue.

At an annual energy summit in Concord Monday, Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley said a bipartisan group is working to lift the cap on a solar incentive called net-metering.

The nation’s largest solar energy contractor is expanding in New Hampshire. But officials with California-based SolarCity say solar’s future here would be brighter if the state lifts a cap on its net metering program.

SolarCity , whose principal investor is tech billionaire Elon Musk, put up 40 percent of the residential solar panels in the country last year, and has been doing business in southern NH since April.

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By all accounts, New Hampshire’s solar industry has started to accelerate in a big way. This year New Hampshire is on track to see a five-fold expansion in the number of solar farms in state since last fall. While that may be the case now, many in the industry say solar is racing towards a brick wall.

Here’s why.

Solar power is supported by a collage of incentives in New Hampshire: There are state rebates for smaller projects, state grants for larger ones, a federal investment tax credit, and renewable energy credits that owners can sell.

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  Just slightly more than a month after the nation’s biggest solar company moved into the New Hampshire market, another major renewable energy firm has followed suit.

Sunrun solar, a pioneer in the booming practice of leasing solar panels to home-owners announced it will offer its products to Southeastern New Hampshire starting this week.

However, it’s not the abundant sunshine that’s attracting these companies, it's likely has more to do with high electricity prices.

N.H. Lags Behind In Solar Power Production

May 12, 2015
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New Hampshire lags behind the rest of New England when it comes to solar electricity production. But with the arrival of California-based SolarCity, there’s reason to believe New Hampshire could catch up. For more on solar power in the Granite State, we turn to David Brooks. He’s the author of the weekly Granite Geek science column for the Nashua Telegraph and he writes at Granite Geek.org as well. He spoke with NHPR's Peter Biello.
 

New Prospects For Solar Energy In N.H.

May 4, 2015
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With the recent announcement that the country’s biggest solar company is coming to New Hampshire, some green energy advocates are hopeful for the industry’s prospects.  We’re looking at how Solar City’s arriving may affect the industry’s prospects here given that today, sun-power represents a tiny percentage of our overall energy mix.

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The biggest residential solar company in the country is coming to New Hampshire.

SolarCity, which in 2014 installed 40 percent solar panels nation-wide, and is the fastest growing solar company in the nation. Their sales have doubled every year since 2010, to the point where last year they installed solar panels on 100,000 homes.

But that’s likely not why you may have heard of them.

“It started 7 years ago, two brothers, Pete and Lyden Rive, who yes are first cousins with Elon Musk,” says Lee Keshishian, SolarCity’s vice president of east coast operations.

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The New Hampshire Electric Coop will soon be the first utility in the state to fulfill a state-mandated requirement on how many customers are allowed to sell their solar energy back onto the grid. This has led some potential solar customers concerned about whether they will recoup their investment to bring their complaints to the Coop’s Board of Directors.

To get what this brouhaha is all about, you first have to know what net-metering is.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

In Peterborough, right next to the waste-water treatment plant, there’s what looks like a giant mud pit, with puddles covered with thick green algae.

“What was here was a waste water-treatment lagoon with water depths of around six to seven feet,” explains Rodney Bartlett, the town’s director of public works, as he watches as load after load of rock and gravel is dumped into the mud. “What we have in process is the water’s been removed, sludge has been removed and the filling process has started, and on top of that will be a one megawatt solar array.”

Via USDA website

Five New Hampshire small businesses are getting over $163,000 in USDA grants for solar projects estimated to power about 180 homes a year.

The businesses are 959 Boys of Portsmouth, Conner Bottling Works of Newfields, Furlone of Spofford L.A. Brochu Inc. of Concord and The Storage Barn in Newington.

The grants cover up to 25 percent of a project's cost. The federal funding will be matched with nearly $500,000 in other funding.

Sara Plourde / NHPR

Star Island – a 43 acre spit of land in the isles of shoals, more than 6 miles off the New Hampshire coast – is installing enough solar panels to power roughly 30 homes and a battery array to back them up.

The island is home to a hotel and conference center run by a non-profit with close ties to the Unitarian Universalist Church. Its efforts to go solar are actually culmination of years of work that some think are a model for how the future of energy could look on the mainland.

Solar Power: Brightening Prospects In New England?

Apr 24, 2014
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This sun-fueled source is one of the fastest growing types of renewable energy in the country.  Although still a tiny piece of the energy portfolio, many are taking note of this expansion, including traditional utilities.  We’re looking at these brightening prospects for solar in New Hampshire and New England and the challenges that might cloud its future growth.

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mhsorens / Flickr Creative Commons

This sun-fueled source is one of the fastest growing types of renewables in the country.  Although still a tiny piece of the energy portfolio, many are taking note of this expansion, including traditional utilities.  We’re looking at these brightening prospects for solar in New Hampshire and New England and the challenges that might cloud its future growth.

GUESTS:

Photo Credit Orangeacid, via Fickr Creative Commons

Dr. Daniel Palanker is associate professor of ophthalmology at Stanford University, a member of the Hansen Experimental Physics Laboratory, and senior author on a paper published last month in Nature Photonics describing his work on photovoltaic retinal prosthetics.