To The Daily Sun,
My NH-based solar development business, which has a project underway with the City of Laconia, is deeply going to be affected by the governor's veto of SB-446, if we do not get the legislators to overturn it this fall.
People often ask me exactly how the solar industry works in New Hampshire. As a community solar developer, our company’s job is to go into a city or town and seek a suitable site for a large-scale community solar project. We frequently look for gravel pits, old municipal sites, landfills, or other good-sized plots of land that are not currently being used or generating any revenue for the community.
The company works out the lease agreement, negotiates a payment in lieu of tax agreement, oversees all state and local permitting, connects the project to the local utility and then ensures the solar array is on-line and working with optimum efficiency. In return, communities get two new revenue sources for both state and local dollars, as well as a new and renewable energy resource that lowers electricity costs for that municipality. This is a terrific and successful program for New Hampshire.
For example, we developed a community solar array at a site owned by the town of Milton’s highway department. It is currently the largest solar project in New Hampshire. Built on a landfill, it has been up and running for two years. Milton’s electricity bill dropped by 2/3, from $30,000 per year to $10,000 per year. And we did it by putting solar panels on an otherwise worthless strip of land.
Our company has worked on projects of similar scope in several other communities around New Hampshire, such as Franklin, Somersworth, Farmington, Conway and Winchester. I mention this because the community benefits of these unique, large-scale municipal projects are at risk of being shut down. Recently, Governor Chris Sununu vetoed SB-446, which would expand the “net metering” program which allows us to create these projects statewide.
If this veto is allowed to stand, the benefits of these upcoming projects will be lost forever, and a successful renewable energy stream will be seriously threatened in New Hampshire. This veto will cripple a thriving industry and cost taxpayers many millions of dollars.
For our company alone, the veto of SB-446 means $150 million worth of construction projects lost because we won’t continue with several municipal projects. We estimate that equates to 100 long-term paying jobs lost just through our company’s efforts statewide.
If the veto stands, look at the projected financial losses to cities and towns:
— $6.3 million in lost state and local revenue for generating this solar power
— $22 million in lost land lease revenue over the life of these projects
— $28 million in lost energy savings for municipalities over the 30-year life of these projects
All of that adds up to $57 million dollars in economic development and energy creation if the governor’s veto stands and these projects fall.
Some are questioning whether there is a return on the investment of this type of program such as the one managed through SB-446. The answer from our perspective is obvious. We bring new power supply into the state, and we upgrade the electricity utility corridor along the way. Our projects generate property tax revenue for cities and towns that wasn’t there previously, and we can impact a town’s tax rate by as much as a dollar, all while lowering electricity costs for municipalities, schools and businesses struggling to pay the high electric rates we experience in N.H.
Critics of SB-446 say we should not subsidize this program with any government funds, but that ignores the fact that the entire energy industry is subsidized. The question people should be asking is, “What’s in it for me?” and “Is there an adequate return on this investment?” In return for supporting SB-446, as lawmakers overwhelming did earlier this year, the state is saying "yes" to lowering power costs and generating revenue in a deal that helps cities and towns to save money on electric bills, and also generate revenue without raising taxes.
There is incredible demand for this program in communities all around the state. Our local leaders understand this is a win-win for New Hampshire. I urge state lawmakers to look at the positive impacts of SB-446 and vote to overturn the governor’s veto. An entire energy market is at stake with this decision.
New England Solar Garden Corporation