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Experiment in solar energy installed

A PSNH line worker installs solar panels (inset) on four poles in Berlin as part of an experiment in renewable energy. Mati Brown. (click for larger version)
November 10, 2010
BERLIN — Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH) was temporarily provided with 8 solar panels from Petrasolar — free of charge — and installed four of them last Wednesday on several utility poles in Berlin near the Notre Dame Ice Arena. The other four panels went to Nashua.

The panels were donated by the company because they have chosen Berlin, along with Nashua, to be testing sites. At the sites the solar panels are installed onto utility poles and that energy is fed directly into the grid. According to the company's website, these new panels allow them to "simultaneously address Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) requirements and invest in a smart grid technology." The panels will be monitored over the course of the next six months. According to Martin Murray, senior corporate news representative of PSNH, "The result can help us and others decide whether it will be worthwhile to invest in a more substantial system in the future through the actual purchase of panels."

Public reaction to the project was mostly positive during interviews with local citizens at the local Dunkin Donuts and White Mountains Community College. "I think that's awesome. It's a more renewable energy," said Bruce Brooks, age 21. Josee Bergeron, age 18, seconded Brooks "I think it's a good idea and I think it should have been done a long time ago." When asked if they'd like to see this implemented on a greater scale if it's successful, Brooks said "Absolutely" and Bergeron said "Yeah, that'd be great."

They were not alone on their responses. Mandi Fenwick, age 28, said "I think that's a great idea and I think they should try it with wind turbines." She also added that since Berlin uses water power, this is a logical step. Fred Doak said, "Solar is good. Anything to help the people out."

Conan Schlie, age 35, was reticent about the projects future costs, saying "In places like Germany, it's [renewable energy projects] mandatory, so are they thinking of making regulations, because that'd be expensive." He added that it would be alright for implementation "Maybe, if they make advances."

According to Mr. Murray, solar energy on a whole costs more than regular fossil fuels. He explained that, "generation of power from renewable energy sources is more expensive because you study how much energy is generated compared to costs to build, supply, and other factors. Part of it has to do with the technology and part of it has to do with variables, such as the sun not always shining, the wind not always blowing." He added that fossil fuel may have a cost, whereas solar, wind, and other renewable sources are free, but the infrastructure is already in place. "Solar and wind producers need to recoup the cost of their investment, but costs are going down as the technology improves," Mr. Murray said.

When asked about storage devices for the energy from solar, Murray said "We have moved away from battery storage to real time production, although people are working on new batteries, but they are by no means perfected."

PSNH is required to support a variety of new renewable energy sources by state law. Mr. Murray said, "we have to support solar energy [as part of the law, the company has to have support for different areas of renewable energy, solar being one of them] and there's not a lot available. The aim is to see if panels like this can help PSNH reach our solar requirement under RPS [Renewable Portfolio Standard] law."

Martin Lord Osman
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