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Energy Committee presents plans for solar project

Kim Frase of Frase Electric, solar installer (fourth from right), gestures in discussion of potential placement of ground mount installations behind the Gould House and adjacent to Tuftonboro's Central Fire Station along Route 109A during a public gathering on April 30 to consider a community solar project to benefit low and moderate income families and offset the fire station's electric bill. (Photo by Elissa Paquette) (click for larger version)
May 09, 2018
TUFTONBORO — The Tuftonboro Energy Committee invited the public last week to a presentation led by Doug Smithwood on a solar project to assist low and moderate income residents with their electric bills, and also reduce the Central Fire Station's electric bill.

Tuftonboro resident Lee White, who has experience along with Smithwood and fellow resident Dan Lake in shepherding a roof top solar installation to fruition at All Saints Episcopal Church in Wolfeboro said the Tuftonboro project offered an economic and environmental opportunity for the town.

The committee has written a $138,000 grant for funds available from the state following passage of Senate Bill 129, a bipartisan bill with 14 cosponsors, among them Sen. Jeb Bradley. In summary, the bill requires a portion of the renewable energy fund to benefit low to moderate income residential customers, relative to electric renewable energy classes, relative to the class rate for biomass, and relative to requirements for incentive payments from the renewable energy fund.

No tax dollars from the town are involved.

A solar installation at Central Station, the town's highest electric consumer, would offer the greatest gain to the town in terms of the discounted cost of electricity. To install a solar system at the Transfer Station, as some have suggested, would not yield as much benefit to the town, for the station consumes less electricity than the fire station.

The group needs to establish a non profit entity to manage the project, but the Tri County Community Action Program would handle applications and the qualifying process. The program serves residents earning less than 300 percent of the poverty level. Currently, said Smithwood, about 50 to 75 families in Tuftonboro receive electric assistance from the state, and many more qualify but don't apply.

Smithwood conducted a walk, joined by solar installer Kim Frase, around the property to take a look at potential sites. The intention is to be able to generate solar power as the sun moves throughout the day by using a combination of options: a section of the back roof of the station, perhaps ground mounts up on the hill beyond the Gould house adjacent to the station, or closer to the station.

Consideration must be given to the use of Tuftonboro's green space, plowing patterns, snow storage, and visibility. Smithwood said visibility is useful as a means to encourage further alternative energy projects.

Selectman Bill Marcussen encourages thoughts and questions and also volunteers, who would like to assist in the project. White said outreach team members to help inform low income families on how to obtain electric assistance are needed. Recipients receive credits, not cash.

The presentation was the second of its kind; the first, as promoted and reported on in the Granite State News, was on March 6, 2017. There are more to come.

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