NhSolarGarden: A new green energy dynamic for NH

February 7, 2014 by  
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STRATHAM — How do I get involved? It’s a question asked by a growing sector of green-energy conscious consumers who want to use locally generated clean energy but can’t put a solar panel or array on their roof or in their back yard.

Andrew Kellar, who founded the biodiesel fuel company Simply Green, has started another innovative company. His NhSolarGarden has ambitions to transform the solar energy industry throughout the state. The plan is to create a decentralized and entrepreneurial approach that could have a dramatic multiplier impact on local economies, lead to greater land conservation and boost sustainable agriculture.

At a glance

NhSolarGarden. Interested community members and potential solar garden hosts can sign up online at www.nhsolargarden.com.

Green Alliance: www.greenalliance.biz

“The key to supporting a growing infrastructure and distributed solar generation across the state is to use the grid at a local level,” said Kellar, who also co-founded the Green Alliance.

The union of local sustainable businesses promotes environmentally sound business practices and is a green co-op offering discounted green products and services to its members.

Solar energy generation is just the starting point. Like the benefits of a thriving community garden or local farmers market, Kellar’s model embraces multiple, flexible facets that merge into an organic whole. First, consumers can become NhSolarGarden members at no cost and buy energy generated by the company’s solar placements. They will get bi-annual solar rebates while simultaneously supporting local farmers and landowners who lease their land for the solar installations.

As part of the business model, NhSolarGarden can build a separate solar system for a new greenhouse so farmers can grow some crops year-round, while creating a new crop of solar energy on their land. Farmers can opt for higher lease payments if they already have greenhouses.

“Part of our core mission is to help farmers,” Kellar said. “We want to utilize existing farmland and boost the cash flow for farmers while combining local food and local energy.

“We have no doubt that the issues of economic growth, alternative energy development, and promoting a sustainable environment are all connected, and we can’t wait for solutions to come from government or large corporations. No one entity can do it all, but this is a workable, commonsense approach to the problems we face locally and globally.”

Because of the recently passed “Group Net Metering” law in New Hampshire, Kellar cannot sell his solar energy directly to consumers through utility companies. But his company can develop a solar array to power one location, known as a “host” area, and share the value of the excess power with another location. Home owners, businesses, schools and/or town residents who form “groups” share the value of the solar energy from the host in their area through existing utilities such as PSNH and Unitil that service the host area.

For hosts and members alike, NhSolarGarden handles all the development and equipment costs and utility logistics.

A growing number of similar projects have taken hold throughout the country, but Kellar said no state has inspired him more than Colorado and its direct solar-energy distribution. Consumers there can buy a solar panel or an entire array in one advantageous location in the state and have the electricity generated delivered directly to their homes or businesses. Though New Hampshire law is far more restrictive than Colorado’s due to the state’s utility and regulatory infrastructure, Kellar said his business model is tailor-made to take advantage of Yankee entrepreneurial ingenuity.

“Of course we would like a few large host locations and hope to develop some large anchor hosts,” Kellar said. “But we are also seeking landowners with as little as 7,000 square feet of land or roof space to become hosts. We can properly place arrays in a number of different places, including malls, self-storage facilities, mill buildings and warehouse rooftops, for example.”

Kellar said they have sites identified totaling 1 megawatt around the state that will create enough power for more than 350 homes, but it’s the first step toward the bigger mission of the company.

“We believe people will embrace this model when they understand that even a rooftop array can generate 91,000 kilowatts of clean energy,” he said. “We want hosts of all sizes so we can create a dynamic, growing network.”

Kellar believes the NhSolarGarden platform will radically increase and reshape solar energy generation in New Hampshire.

“Within a year or two, we will be generating more solar energy than was generated in the past five years,” he said. “It’s an attainable goal because we are already part of the way there.”

NhSolarGarden is a business partner of the Green Alliance. Green Alliance members can buy locally generated solar energy and get a 2-cent-per-kwh discount by becoming a member of NhSolarGarden. That would amount to an estimated $100 per year based on the typical home usage of 5,000 kwh per year.

Michael McCord writes for the Green Alliance.


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