In The News

Sugar River Bank and MainStreet BookEnds of Warner work together

The bookstore MainStreet BookEnds of Warner held a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony to present the newly installed solar array that provides 100% of the electrical needs for the building, as well as the adjacent Jim Mitchell Community Park.  The solar power system designed, built and completed in January by Harmony Energy Works out of Hampton, was funded through state and federal solar incentives, and received small business financing from Sugar River Bank. 

Laggin Behind

Although it has many elements needed for a strong solar market, New Hampshire isn’t booming
By Chris Warren
Photon Magazine, August 2012
… Not far away, in the historic oceanside city of Portsmouth, Bob Vaccaro and his partner Dan Rawling were eager to add PV to their 19th century Italianate home.

The plans for the addition of an almost 16kW array to the roof of the house – which features a stunning Victorian garden, overlooked by a porch that resembles a gazebo – got a chilly reception from one of the members of the city’s historic district commission, which approves alterations to historic buildings. “One guy said ‘the ugliest thing in the world to me are solar panels’ “, says Vaccaro, a yoga instructor, as he sits in the lush garden where his daughter’s wedding reception was held. But that personal aversion to the look of solar panels by the member of the commission was not enough to stop the project from moving forward.

Such is the uneven picture of solar development in the Granite State. While large solar developers and integrators are unlikely to spend much time in New Hampshire unless something dramatic changes on the policy front, there will no doubt be a relatively small amount of activity. “I think we will see steady demand and some increased demand as system costs come down and people get more comfortable with the technology. But I don’t see a dramatic takeoff,”  the PUC’s Ruderman concludes. “I think we are going to be that state that just goes slow and steady.

Solar panels powering Applecrest, Farm gets project grant

By Liz Premo
August 31, 2012 2:00 AM
HAMPTON FALLS — Applecrest Farm Orchards will soon be reaping the benefits of a renewable energy upgrade thanks to funding made possible by a grant offered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development’s Rural Energy for America Program.

The grant is being utilized to construct a 39.78-kilowatt (kW) solar photovoltaic system at the farm to help reduce energy usage at the family owned and operated agricultural business.

According to an announcement issued by the office of U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in Washington, D.C., the solar panel system is expected to replace approximately 48,903 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity annually at Applecrest.

“It’s right in line with a lot of the initiatives that we have been doing at the farm,” said owner Todd Wagner, adding that the business strives to continuously keep Applecrest “green, environmentally sound, and sustainable as a working farm.”

The initiative is one of 106 such agriculturally centered projects in the United States, Puerto Rico and Guam funded by REAP, which is authorized by the 2008 Farm Bill.

REAP-funded projects like the one at Applecrest are designed to produce renewable energy and make energy efficiency improvements.

REAP provides grants and loan guarantees for agricultural producers and rural small businesses to reduce energy consumption and costs, use renewable energy technologies in their operations and conduct feasibility studies for renewable energy projects.

“As a farm our entire lives and livelihoods depend upon a clean, healthy environment and if anyone is going to be a steward of the land it should be us,” he said. “This kind of project is very much in line with our farm’s philosophy.”

Wagner explained how a weather-related incident in February 2011 played a major part in the eventual installation of the solar panels this summer.

“A 60-by-60 portion of our main barn roof collapsed under the weight of ice and snow,” he said. “That sort of forced our hand into putting up a new roof and making that improvement.”

The design of the roof replacement project allowed for the installation of the photovoltaic system into the structure. On Tuesday of this week, Wagner reported that the project was near its completion.

“They just finished putting in the panel arrays on the main barn, and are starting to tie in (to) the electrical grid,” he said. “By next week we’ll be starting to watch the meters turn.”

The USDA’s REAP program has been an ongoing initiative, and Wagner said it is “something that we were aware of for a number of years. As it became clear that this type of project would work for us, we put in the application.”

He said the application process was “a couple of years in the making,” calling it “a long, drawn-out process” of “many, many steps” that included “a huge number of requirements, research and documents.”

In spite of the volume of work leading up to the implementation of the project, Wagner predicts the new solar panel system will make a noticeable difference with regard to power-level consumption at the farm.

“During the height of last season we had pretty significant requirements in term of power usage,” he said. “At the height of our season the system won’t supply everything we need but it will provide a good percentage of it.”

He added, “If everything works out like it did on paper it should be great for everyone.”

Looking to the future, Wagner said alternative energy resources, including possible wind energy projects and geothermal heating “are certainly something we will continually explore.”

According to Vilsack, through REAP the federal government helps agricultural producers and rural small business owners across the country reduce their energy costs and consumption.

He further stated that the Obama administration’s energy strategy “involves expanding support for traditional as well as alternative energy sources. Stable energy costs create an environment for sustainable job growth in rural America.”