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Town’s solar plan is pie in the sky

To the editor:

Peterborough’s Public Works Director is quoted in this paper Jan. 21 as claiming that the town can produce a megawatt of electric power from solar panels to be placed on a mere 3.5 acres. You also report that he whines about Councilor Sununu’s past opposition to such boondoggles.

According to NASA’s Atmospheric Science Data Center, a 22-year average of solar insolation incident on a horizontal surface at the latitude and longitude of Peterborough ranges from 1.81 killowatt-hours per square meter per day in January to 5.66 in July. Three-and-a-half acres equals 14,163 square meters. Thus, in July, approximately 80,163 kilowatt-hours per day fall on that lot. That translates to an annual daily average of 3.34 megawatts. But wait, solar voltaic panels convert only about 15 percent of incident insolation to DC power. That brings us down to 0.501 megawatts.

But wait again, there are losses in converting DC power to usable AC. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory uses a reasonable value of 77 percent for conversion efficiency in their “PVWatts” calculator. That would bring us down to 0.386 megawatts. That’s for July. For January: 0.123 megawatts. And it’s not even that “rosy.” To prevent shading of one collector by another in January, the collectors would have to be permanently spaced further apart than they would in July, reducing the maximum power available in July from that estimated above.

Councilor Pignatelli is reported as saying the project makes financial sense and that, at a time when the U.S. is increasing its domestic production of oil, we should look elsewhere than fossil fuel to meet our energy needs. For Democrat politicians it’s “solar goooooood”; “fossil baaaaaaaaad.”

Director Bartlett may owe Councilor Sununu and taxpayers an apology.

Ross Wilkinson


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