Content courtesy ReVision Energy
Why Solar, Why Now?
We believe it is cause for concern, and immediate action, that New Hampshire has some of the highest per capita carbon emissions of all New England states. Despite our state’s pristine environmental reputation, we contribute to the atmosphere more greenhouse gases per person than our northeastern neighbors. One major reason is that 450,000 homes in New Hampshire are heated with oil. We also drive long distances because our communities are spread out and we consume too much electricity that is produced by natural gas and coal. To meet our energy needs, New Hampshire imports 1.5 billion gallons of fossil fuel each year and exports $2 billion from our state economy—much of it to countries that dislike us.
Renewable energy is one of the best solutions to New Hampshire’s energy problems. Due to our latitude, and proximity to the Gulf Stream and resulting weather patterns, we receive the best sunshine in New England—more than enough to power every home with solar electricity and enough to supply all of our domestic hot water. In fact, there is enough solar energy in New Hampshire to heat a super-insulated home year round. On top of that, we have enough forest resources to convert a significant number of homes to fully automated pellet boilers that are environmentally friendly. And with today’s solar-powered air source heat pumps, you can heat and cool your home completely from solar energy!
The technology is here, and the time is now: all that’s required is the will to act.
Is there really enough sun in New Hampshire for solar to offset my energy needs?
The answer is absolutely yes! Here’s why…
Insolation is the amount of solar energy hitting the earth’s surface and is measured in kW-hr/m2/day. The National Renewable Energy Lab has assembled worldwide insolation data to learn how much sun falls in a particular location so that one can draw a reasonably accurate conclusion as to the amount of solar energy that can be harvested on an annual basis. Below is an insolation map that has been cropped to show how the available solar insolation in New Hampshire compares to eastern Europe’s:
Germany is the world leader when it comes to solar, yet New Hampshire receives more sun!
If New Hampshire gets roughly 30% more annual sunshine than Germany, the world leader in solar energy installations, why are we so far behind implementing available renewable technology?
A Matter of Priorities
Germany has a powerful government incentive program that financially rewards people and businesses who invest in renewable energy. There is a national “Energiewende” movement with strong buy-in on the local and national level with a set of ambitious renewable energy goals and policies to support them. The cornerstone of these, for solar, is the ‘Feed-in Tariff’ law which requires utilities to pay a premium to any home or business that generates clean renewable energy, allowing private renewable energy investors to finance solar investments and expect modest returns.
The public benefit of this private investment in renewable energy is greater stability to the electric grid, reduced carbon and other forms of air emissions, and, in the long term, very reasonable rates for clean electricity. The bulk of the investment in Germany comes from individuals (often farmers) or from small solar co-operatives where a group purchases and operates a solar project as a group.
In the United States, there has been no similar national movement to drive the adoption of renewable technology. Various states have made progress on the local level, and they are reaping the benefits of those forward-thinking policies. For example, California is set to handily meets its goal of 33% renewable electricity by 2020, and, closer to home, Massachusetts is one of the top 5 solar states in the USA thanks to policies like a carbon-credit trading system (SRECs). In fact, solar adoption in Massachusetts has grown so quickly that Gov. Devall Patrick was forced to increase his solar adoption goals after his previous goal (250MW) was met 4 years early.
At this writing, New Hampshire has a cap on net metering which threatens to dramatically slow this growing business. This is why we strongly support the enactment of Bill SB333, which will increase the net metering cap by 25MW and urge the PUC to research a long-term policy to supplement net metering.
While lawmakers struggle to keep pace with innovation, the core technology behind solar has improved rapidly. From 2009-2011 solar electric modules declined by over 50%, reducing their ‘sticker price’ such that they have become increasingly competitive with conventional power with smaller levels of government support (though, it should be said, traditional forms of energy enjoy huge amounts of subsidies, in the form of both direct subsidies, as well as indirect subsidies such as a free pass to dump carbon pollution into the atmosphere).