Sugar Hill could soon have all of its municipal buildings and street lights powered by the sun, and with a substantial cost savings during the next decades.
A solar array project that has been advancing for several years will go to a town meeting vote on May 11.
In a report completed by Sugar Hill resident, Carl Martland, the array that would be located on the south-facing hillside behind the town garage comes with a projected lifetime cost savings of more than $180,000 over 30 years.
“It would provide energy over the course of the year that is roughly equivalent to the amount of energy of all the buildings and street lights,” Martland said Monday.
Article 15 asks to see if the town will vote to raise $83,000 for a bond/loan for the installation, including a first-year payment of $17,000.
The town already has $7,500 in a capital reserve fund to go toward the total $90,000 purchase.
The loan for the $83,000 balance carries a 1.9-percent interest rate and can be paid off in five years at a cost of $17,500 annually.
Benefits include a clean, renewable source of energy, long solar array life and low maintenance, reduced payments for electricity to the tune of $4,000 a year initially and more than $135,000 over 30 years, renewable energy credits of about $1,300 a year initially and more than $45,000 over 30 years, and reduced taxes, Martland said in his report.
The 94-panel array to be installed by 603 Solar would produce 48,000 kilowatt hours a year.
The total project cost over the 30-year life is estimated at $120,000, which includes about $1,000 in annual maintenance and insurance.
Selectmen took a big step toward the project during their meeting on Jan. 18, when Martland gave them options for a municipal solar array, to include financing options. The board expressed it would like to move forward with a warrant article.
On Jan. 25, Selectman Margo Connors shared three bids for the solar project and was expecting one more bid. The town also contacted the bank for a five-year interest rate.
During the Feb. 1 budget hearing, Connors said the board would finalize a choice the following week for an installer to hire if the warrant article passes.
During their meeting on Feb. 8, Selectman John Strasser made a motion to hire 603 Solar as the contractor if the article passes, and the board reworked the article to reduce the bond/loan to $83,000.
Although some schools and municipalities lease solar arrays, the town of Sugar Hill would own its array.
“Margo Connors has been actively pushing for ways to conserve energy and reduce energy costs for a long time, and this idea for the solar array came within the last couple of years,” said Martland, who serves on the board of directors of the Ammonoosuc Regional Energy Team.
ARET is made up of citizens from Bethlehem, Franconia, Littleton and Sugar Hill who encourage and support energy conservation projects and practices to save energy costs and benefit the environment through carbon footprint reduction.
The group was involved in the successful warrant article to outfit Profile School in Bethlehem with a solar array to power the school’s energy needs, and is also involved in the municipal solar array proposal for the town of Bethlehem, the residents of which will vote on that warrant article at Bethlehem’s town meeting in June.
For Sugar Hill’s municipal needs, Martland said well over half of the energy will be produced during the summer.
Selling the energy to the grid would net the town about 10 cents per kilowatt hour and buying it from Eversource Energy would cost about 18 cents per kilowatt hour, and while Sugar Hill won’t save on all of its energy costs, it will save a large chunk of it, he said.
Unit costs for installing solar arrays, too, have dropped significantly in the last half decade, said Martland.
If voters approve Article 15 at the May town meeting, the solar array could be installed this summer or fall, or early next spring at the latest, he said.
“For those in town who favor green energy and the environment, they’ll be happy, and for those who want to save on taxes, they’ll be happy, because over the life of the system you’re going to save money,” said Martland. “At town meeting, the town votes on capital reserve funds and we are going to put another $50,000 for bridges and $50,000 for roads. With this, you are talking about a $90,000 investment, which can be financed at a very low interest rate and paid off in five years.”