Leading the way with solar array

Paying 8 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity rather than 14 cents seems like a no-brainer. It clearly was the deciding factor for the 130 or so Peterborough residents who turned out for Tuesday’s Special Town Meeting. They unanimously endorsed the town’s plan to partner with Borrego Solar, which will lease part of the town’s former sewage lagoons in order to build the state’s largest solar array. The project is expected to provide cheaper electricity — enough to power the town’s wastewater plant and perhaps be credited to other town buildings — from a reliable and renewable source, at a location that would otherwise be essentially useless.

A grant from the N.H. Public Utilities Commission will cover almost half the cost of the project.

It’s undeniable that the project is being subsidized by the state’s utility companies, who are required by law to make payments into the PUC fund if they don’t get a sufficient percentage of their energy from renewable sources. Some would say that means utility rates for consumers are higher than they would be if companies like PSNH didn’t have to make such payments. But others are glad the law is in place. One of the Peterborough residents who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting said he’d prefer to see PSNH spending some of its money to support solar energy rather than putting it toward a new power plant.

It’s probably wishful thinking to believe solar power and wood pellets are the sole answer to ever-rising energy costs. But regardless of your stance on the politics of subsidizing renewable energy projects — we think it’s a good idea, both for the local economy and the environment — the fact remains that the law is in place and the money is available. It would be shortsighted not to take advantage of the opportunity.

Kudos to Peterborough Public Works Director Rodney Bartlett, Peterborough resident Chris Anderson, who is Borrego’s chief technology officer, and former Select Board member Joe Byk, who was an early and eloquent supporter of the solar array project. Their persistent effort over several years is paying off now, and will for at least 20 years to come, as Peterborough continues to lead the way when it comes to renewable energy.

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