Large-scale solar takes shape around the state

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Well over 215 megawatts await agreement, approval

New Hampshire Business Review, May 9, 2019

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Peterborough once held the largest solar farm in the state, at 1 megawatt, but it’s nothing compared to what’s now being proposed.

The site is some 600 acres, about a mile and a half from the heart of Fitzwilliam, populated by red maple and oak, white pine and birch, with a covering of grasses and ferns.

In about a year and a half — if all goes according to plan — more than 100 acres of trees will be chopped down, and about 100 workers will be building a massive power plant to send electricity to southern New England.

But after construction, there will be no pollution. There will be no fuel to deliver or burn. And after construction, the area will nearly be as quiet as it ever was, just not as pretty to look at.

Welcome to the coming of large-scale solar, which transforms acres of green into shiny black and silver.

Chinook Solar, as the Fitzwilliam project is called, is likely to be the first utility-scale solar project to be built in the Granite State, though it has been, and will be, years in the making. It certainly won’t be the last.

Net Metering Large Scale Solar Sidebar

NextEra, the giant Florida-based energy company that owns the Seabrook nuclear power plant, expects to finish Chinook in 2021 and then sell the 30 megawatts of power it produces to providers in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

That’s a small step in energy production compared to the 1,200-MW Seabrook plant, but a giant leap for solar energy in New Hampshire.

‘Merchant’ facilities

The Granite State’s total solar capacity of about 85 MW is 38th in the nation and far behind its neighbors. But if Chinook and other projects go through, there would be another 300 MW coming down the pike, and those are the projects that NH Business Review has found in the pipeline.

Developers of at least 22 large-scale solar projects, totaling 215 MW, have already applied for interconnect agreements in the Eversource utility area alone, said Eversource spokesperson William Hinkle, indicating that there are at least seven projects that are not public.

Most of the projects are “merchant” facilities, projects being pushed by energy corporations bidding on decades-long contracts with out-of-state utilities, though that may change if New Hampshire joins the bidding war for renewable energy. (Lawmakers seem likely to pass a bill to look at that possibility, but even so, a New Hampshire renewable request for proposal is still years away.)