NH solar project costs ratepayers $1.2M, saves them half that

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New Hampshire utility ratepayers will pay a Taiwanese company $1.22 million to build the state’s largest solar installation so that a small town can save about $500,000 in power costs over the life of the project.

Taiwan’s Walsin Lihwa, parent company of Borrego Solar, will use Chinese-made solar panels in the 3.5-acre project, which is supposed to be finished in July. It will supply power to several municipal buildings in the area but only some of the time: the town of Peterborough (population: 6,284) gets only 197 sunny days per year.

“What a great project,” deadpanned David Kreutzer, a senior fellow with the Heritage Foundation. “A $1.2 million grant allows Peterborough to save $500,000! And that doesn’t include the cross-subsidies of net metering.” Net metering requires all other ratepayers to cover the fixed costs of electricity distribution so that solar users have a safety net when the sun doesn’t shine.

In an unusual feature of the deal, Borrego Solar will retain ownership of the system. That allows the company to claim a 30 percent federal tax credit — along with $55,000 in yearly renewable energy credits paid for by local ratepayers.

As for the rest of year, Peterborough will have to buy electricity from conventional sources.

“I’m all for renewable energy, however in the case of this project it looks like others are subsidizing this so it can have a return,” said state House Majority Leader Jack B. Flanagan, a Republican. “Even with the investment, the return is not going to happen for 30 years.”

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