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Hanover moves closer to renewable energy goal



Valley News Staff Writer
Friday, April 05, 2019

HANOVER — The town of Hanover is making progress toward its goal of using 100 percent renewable energy for electricity by 2030 through new solar panels, a planned green energy co-op and other measures. It’s also upgrading some police vehicles to hybrid models as part of its goal to reach 100 percent renewable for transportation and heating by 2050.

Both Dartmouth College and the town of Hanover have additional solar installations planned, depending on the passage of a New Hampshire bill. Hanover is hoping to install solar panels generating 3 megawatts of power next to the water filtration facility on Grasse Road, and the college is considering up to a 14 MW set of panels on Oak Hill, according to Hanover Town Manager Julia Griffin.

Since the town’s 2017 “Ready for 100” vote, Sustainable Hanover has been able to determine that the town of Hanover — including everyone from the college to households to businesses — consumes 124,000 MW of power a year. The average U.S. utility customer uses around 0.8 MW of electricity every month.

The Grasse Road solar panels either would be owned directly by Hanover or owned by a third-party company that would lease the land and sell energy to the town of Hanover, Griffin said.

In March, the New Hampshire House passed a bill by a 254-98 margin that would increase the cap for net metering, which allows owners of solar panels to sell electricity onto the grid and save on bills, from 1 to 5 MW. Republican Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed a similar bill last year, though this year the House has enough votes to override a veto.

Hanover has already installed solar panels in other locations such as the roof of the Hanover Police Department and soon the roof of Town Hall. However, rooftop installations are not enough to fulfill the needs of municipal buildings, Griffin said.

Dartmouth also has solar panels on the roofs of various buildings. Dartmouth spokeswoman Diana Lawrence said the college is looking for a solar installation site that will make a “meaningful impact” on energy consumption. Oak Hill, which is home to the college’s cross country ski trails, is under consideration, though Lawrence said the college is not sure if it is a “feasible location at this time.”

Hanover also is hoping to offer a “Green Power Energy Co-op” or competing green energy option for households and small businesses to purchase. Proposals from energy companies are due in April and Griffin is hoping that Hanover residents will be able to sign up online starting in early May. The energy still would be distributed by Liberty Utilities but would be “Green-e” certified power instead of natural gas.

Three years ago, over 300 Hanover households — around 10 percent of the town — participated in a similar green energy co-op, Griffin said. However, the deal fell through when another energy company, Spark, bought the supplier.

Griffin, along with members from the Neighborhood Action Group and Sustainable Hanover, have been giving “sneak peaks” of a planned Hanover Energy Forum at 6:30 p.m. on April 24 at Richmond Middle School Auditorium.

“I think we all are doing this much because we’re concerned about all of you and our children and the sort of planet we’re leaving,” she said.

At the forum, Griffin will be joined by Hanover Sustainability Director April Salas, Dartmouth’s director for sustainability Rosie Kerr and the co-chairwoman of the Sustainable Hanover Committee, Yolanda Baumgartner. There also will be exhibits of completed projects and local residents to consult on energy saving.

“Our goal was to come up with ideas that were easy for folks to embrace and to sign on to so that we could make this as painless as possible for people to make the transition,” Griffin said.

Hanover households and over 90 businesses also are participating in NHSaves, a state rebate program that encourages retrofitting houses to save energy. A Hanover weatherization effort to help improve insulation at existing homes and make them more energy efficient also will launch next fall through the nonprofit Vital Communities.

A power purchase agreement is the next step to offset the “brown” energy consumed by Dartmouth, the Co-op Food Stores and other large users, who consume over 80 percent of the electricity in town. A power purchase agreement would lock large users into a 20-year fixed rate and help finance the construction of commercial scale renewable energy facilities such as solar or wind.

Dartmouth currently has an oil-fired power plant in the heart of campus but has announced plans to build a biomass plant in an as-yet undetermined site in Hanover to be fueled by wood chips. The plant heats the campus and also generates some of the electricity consumed by the college. The new biomass plant would be run and financed by a private operator, which also would help convert Dartmouth buildings from steam heat to hot water heat.

The college has indicated there will be an opportunity for the town to be included in the planning once a third-party operator and a site are chosen, Griffin said.

Hanover police also will replace cruisers with four hybrid Ford Explorers, a new model recently outfitted for the police vehicles.

A subcommittee of Sustainable Hanover also is looking into a private community solar project.

“By the way, we’re also working on fuel at the same time — transportation fuel and heating fuel — but quite frankly, 2030 comes sooner than 2050,” Griffin said.

Amanda Zhou can be reached at azhou@vnews.com.