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By Goeff Cunningham Jr.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
NEWMARKET — Town officials are considering entering into a public/private partnership that could see solar arrays being placed on the top of several municipal buildings in what would be an effort to harness electricity savings through the sun’s rays.
An effort to buy wholesale power has already saved the town upward of $14,000 with a new initiative aiming at giving taxpayers even more bang for their buck if a local firm is able to generate solar energy that could be used by the town with excess power being a potential source of revenue.
Bob Coffey of Green Power Management and Clay Mitchell of Revolution Energy — both Newmarket residents — appeared before the Town Council recently and continued to pitch environmentally-friendly energy ideas that could result in significant savings.
Town Administrator Ed Wojnowski said the leaders behind Revolution Energy are seeking a partnership that would see the private firm putting up the upfront costs associated with a project that would position solar panels on the roofs of several municipal buildings and possibly on a town-owned landfill site on Ash Swamp Road.
Wojnowski said governmental entities like towns cannot obtain tax rebates from generating solar power, but private entities can, thus allowing Dover-based Revolution Energy to take advantage of such incentives while helping the town save money.
Mike Behrmann — one of the founders of the company — said the partnership will essentially involve Revolution Energy purchasing the solar energy equipment and owning it for a portion of time.
He said the town would enter into a “power purchase agreement” that will involve the town buying power generated from the solar units for a time until the municipality takes ownership of them.
The idea is for the town to provide Revolution Energy with the rooftop space to situate solar panels so they may generate the electricity needed to support a portion of the power needs of municipal buildings.
“They are willing purchase the equipment for the town to do that. Some (of the power) would be deducted from our bill and the rest goes back into the electric grid as a potential revenue source for the town,” Wojnowski explained.
Officials are currently considering putting solar panels on town hall, the public works garage, the police department and possibly other municipal buildings.
Behrmann said the town is looking at a more dispersed system that would have solar photovoltaic panels being placed in numerous rooftop locations rather than on a single parcel of land.
“Obviously when it comes to one very large system, it can be difficult finding the space,” Behrmann said.
And the idea isn’t unprecedented.
Revolution Energy is currently in the final stages of installing a solar array on the roof of Exeter High School that — when finished— will have a 100 kilowatt per hour energy production capability.
Wojnowski said recent discussions regarding a possible solar power project come amid ongoing work that has been done to reduce the town’s energy costs.
The town is already working with Green Power Management to buy “wholesale” power to run town buildings with that electricity costing less than it would if it was purchased through Public Service of New Hampshire.
Wojnowski said power can be purchased from anywhere in the country and while PSNH — the owner of the electric lines — is still paid for their distribution, the actual electricity is being bought elsewhere.
The town administrator said Newmarket entered into a wholesale power contract that has already resulted in about $14,268 in savings between October of 2009 and June of 2010.
Wojnowski said the local school system is also working with the companies to save money with the town also investigating a project that would use solar tubes to heat water that would be used in a radiant floor heating system in the auditorium of town hall.
A July 21 workshop saw members of the Town Council giving officials the green light to move forward with efforts to investigate how they might make the solar power project a reality.
More finalized plans for the project will be presented to the panel in the future.
“The Town Council will make the final decision,” Wojnowski said.
More information on Revolution Energy can be found at www.rev-en.com.