Newport, New Hampshire: Small Town, Big Idea


Lately we’ve been blogging about corporations that have achieved or have committed to a 100 percent net-zero carbon footprint—but what about an entire town?

Newport, New Hampshire, bills itself as “The Sunshine Town,” so perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise its 6,500 citizens voted to build the state’s largest municipal solar project—a two-megawatt DC net-metered photovoltaic (PV) system capable of providing energy for all of the town’s municipal facilities, including its schools, its library, and its police and fire departments.

The project is actually three sets of PV panels; one next to the wastewater treatment plant, another on a closed landfill, and the last adjacent to a pumping station. The sites were chosen for their solar exposure, proximity to a utility or facility load, and aesthetic impact; the planners also aimed to achieve the “highest and best use of land,” meaning these properties could not be usable or developable for a better purpose or greater value to the town.

Local developer Norwich Solar Technologies will helm the project and has a 25-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Newport. Other recent projects the company has procured include a pair in Vermont: a 333-kilowatt DC solar facility for the St. Johnsbury School District and two systems in the town of Hartford. Founded in 2011, the growing company now has more than two dozen employees.

Work will begin this summer, and the systems will most likely be operational by mid-fall. Best of all, the PPA provides the energy at a discount without having to provide any capital investment for the project. The company is investing $2 million for the cost of building the project and will own it, then sell the power to the town at a discount. Norwich claims the town will see immediate savings, with greater savings as energy prices rise over time—typically two to three percent every year.

“We will, in short, be net zero and are already seeing significant savings,” explained Newport Town Manager Hunter F. Reiseberg, “It has been a home run.”

“Projects of this type typically help attract and retain forward-looking commercial and industrial companies and industrial businesses,” Norwich Solar’s CEO Jim Merriam added.

The project has garnered quite a bit of attention around the Granite State, including an article in the Concord Monitor, the newspaper of record in its capital. Other towns in the region have similar aspirations, so the Newport-Norwich deal is setting a great precedent.

CRES applauds the voters of Newport for their overwhelming support for the project and encourages other towns to follow their example.

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