DERRY — Supporters of the sun's power in town may be able to use an old capped landfill site for a solar project that could supply the town with annual energy savings and eventual tax relief.
At a recent Town Council meeting, Public Works Director Mike Fowler and Net Zero Task Force Chairman Jeff Moulton gave an update on a proposal to bring a 3,400-panel solar project to about four acres at the town's old landfill off Kendall Pond Road.
Derry's transfer station off Fordway has an existing 100-kilowatt solar array, officially unveiled and made operational last spring. That project has 10 ground-mounted tracking devices, each holding 24 panels.
This newest proposal would install flat solar panels on the land that could generate enough energy to support the town's Public Works site at 75% with a 1 megawatt system, or up to 100% support of both town and school district if the system was elevated to a 5 megawatt style.
State legislation currently doesn't allow the higher megawatt system, but there is a potential to override Gov. Chris Sununu's veto that could expand the net metering limit.
"It's back in the hands of the House of Representatives and Senate to override," Fowler said. "That could have an impact ultimately on the direction we take."
The Net Zero group started in 2016 and looks to find and implement energy savings ideas across town and school district.
The group, along with Tupelo Music Hall, co-hosted a solar summit this week, bringing together business owners, nonprofit organizations and energy professionals to talk about ways to save money using the sun's power.
Town Councilor and Net Zero member Joshua Bourdon said the group is always ready to support anyone wanting to learn more about going solar.
He credited the Tupelo Music Hall's own efforts installing a 100-kilowatt grid-tiered solar electric system on the music venue's rooftop as a local success story.
The Tupelo worked with Brentwood-based ReVision Energy for the solar installation.
"When the sun is shining, over 300 solar panels on our rooftop produce electricity that's used in either real time by the music hall or fed back to the grid, where it benefits the community," Tupelo owner Scott Hayward said.
ReVision Energy's Dan Weeks spoke at the recent solar forum and said Derry has a lot of good work going on when it comes to implementing solar and other energy-saving efforts.
"How exciting it is to see the kind of local leadership we see here in Derry," Weeks said.
Fowler added Derry's newest project could be planned and implemented through a lease-to-own type agreement that could drop costs from a nearly $3 million price tag down to about $1.2 million at year five of a lease for the town's buyout cost.
If the governor's veto is overturned, that could mean a bigger savings for both town and school as the higher 5 megawatt system could be implemented.
"If the state overrides the veto, Derry has tremendous opportunity to lower our taxes," Bourdon said, adding there would be no reason for the school district to not support this solar measure that could ultimately also save so much money.
"It's money produced by the sun," Bourdon said.
More details will come this summer on financing options if councilors decide to move forward with the project. A public hearing on the solar project will be held in August.