Durham, NH Solar Ice Skating Facility

The 300 solar panels on the Town of Durham, NH’s Churchill ice rink will provide roughly 10% of all the electricity used in the facility

Durham, NH now boasts three new solar arrays on town buildings: a 99kw solar electric system on the town’s ice rink, 16kw on the library, and 6kw on the police department. The three systems, designed, installed, and financed by ReVision Energy, were installed at no up-front cost to the town. Instead, the town will buy power from ReVision Energy at below-utility rates for 7-8 years, then have the option to buy out the three systems.

The project is the product of a strong working relationship between the town’s administrator Todd Selig, his department staff, and the Energy Committee. Durham’s 10-year master plan includes a chapter on energy, in which the town pledges to ‘reduce the environmental and societal burdens of energy consumption by purposefully minimizing its energy requirements and promoting the use of clean, renewable sources of energy.’

“We [the town] identified three areas where we could reduce our vulnerability to fossil fuel scarcity and price volatility – transportation (by converting the town fleet to fuel-efficient vehicles), housing (by encouraging growth in core downtown areas that are walkable and bikable), and through renewable energy,” says Charles Forcey, a member of the Durham Energy Committee and a ReVision Energy Customer. “Several of us on the energy committee had solar installed on our own homes, so we knew it could work on the individual level, but we wanted to see what was possible for the town.”

Getting the Process Started

Durham’s Energy Committee put out a RFQ asking companies to come up with creative, economically sound renewable energy proposals for the town. “ReVision Energy’s power purchase agreement (PPA) proposal was the most sound proposal to be sent to us, relying on no exotic grants or credits to work and providing a benefit while being tax-neutral,” Charles said.

After Durham expressed interest in the general PPA offer, ReVision Energy started work on the process of identifying viable PPA sites in the town. ReVision Energy reviewed over a dozen town properties, and ultimately identified the Churchill ice rink, police station, and library as the best sites due to their excellent south-facing rooftops and on-site power demand.

“It was a real pleasure to work with the town of Durham,” said Steve Condon, sales manager of ReVision’s Exeter branch. “There is a lot of work required behind the scenes in a project like this, and from day one the town was very much on-board with the concepts we presented and genuinely excited about taking advantage of their solar opportunities. It was refreshing to see a clear commitment to sustainability from the town manager, who is in turn supported by the town’s energy committee.”

Solar Goes Up

Durham Public Library Solar

A 15kw solar electric array sits on Durham, NH’s public library

After months of planning, the details were finalized and the three solar projects were installed at the end of 2013, with all three systems online and producing power by Christmas!

Forcey hopes the projects will help to illustrate to people with the town that solar is a viable option for meeting the town’s energy needs in the next few decades and beyond.

“There still seems to be a lot of contention when you talk about climate change,” Forcey says, “But people in the town can unite around the idea of sustainability and resiliency. Fossil fuels are a huge economic burden on the town and their price volatility leaves us vulnerable to politics in distant parts of the globe. We are trying to show that locally-produced energy sources are viable now and that the investments are needed today to give us a more secure future.”