BY PATRICK O’GRADY
VALLEY NEWS CORRESPONDENT
Plainfield — A 100-kilowatt solar array that would be located in a field next to the Plainfield Elementary School parking lot could be in operation next summer, residents were told at a hearing on the proposal Thursday night.
The School Board said it is finalizing a contract with Norwich Solar Technologies, of White River Junction, to lease the land for construction of the array with 432 solar modules. Once the contract is in place, Norwich Solar Technologies would begin the permitting process, which could take about two months and then, depending on the weather, begin construction in late winter or early spring. The modules are pre-assembled, which allows for faster on-site installation.
The array would produce 167,400 kilowatt hours per year and produce enough power to meet the needs of the school, said Joel Stettenhiem, co-founder of Norwich Solar Technologies.
In his presentation during the meeting, Stettenhiem stressed not only the financial advantages of solar power but the environmental and educational ones. The company will provide online data and kiosks on-site that teachers can use for instruction, he said.
“Schools have been receptive to taking advantage of educational opportunities,” said Stettenhiem, referring to Kimball Union Academy, Thetford Elementary School and Cardigan Mountain School where Norwich Technologies has put up solar arrays.
Under the pending agreement, the school district is guaranteed a savings of 5 percent over the market rate for energy, which translates into $1,400 a year on the $28,000 annual electric bill for the school, the School Board said.
Stettenhiem said costs have come down significantly for solar power and combined with the environmental benefits of reducing reliance on fossil fuels, it is a “win, win” proposition.