UPDATE: I was reminded that this applies to many energy-producing systems, not just solar. That could in theory mean wind (unlikely) but definitely covers small hydropower. Nashua owns a couple of small hydropower dams and this might let them boost their output.

Towns and cities in New Hampshire can build much larger solar projects now that the size limit of reimbursement by utilities has been raised.

Three years after vetoing a similar bill, Gov. Sununu on Thursday, Aug. 26, signed HB315, which raises the net-metering cap for municipal-owned solar from 1 megawatt to 5 megawatts. A megawatt can power between 700 and 1,000 homes.

Net metering allows solar arrays to be paid when they produce for electricity than they use, such as during sunny mornings. The relatively low limit on such reimbursement was cited as one reason that Concord hasn’t gone forward with plans to help power its wastewater treatment plant with solar panels.

At a Science Cafe New Hampshire discussion during last week’s Market Days festival, City Councilor Rob Werner said a higher net-metering cap would encourage the city to look at putting solar panels on its closed landfill. Because fixed costs for building a solar farm don’t rise much when the number of solar panels increase, bigger arrays often make financial sense for customers that use a lot of electricity, such as cities.

Nashua and Manchester have also expressed interest in building solar plants once the net-metering cap is raised.

The bill requires that the entire solar plant be located within the borders of the city or town.

In a statement after the signing, Sam Evans-Brown, director of the advocacy group Clean Energy New Hampshire, called solar power a local-control issue.

“It’s estimated that Granite Staters send nearly $4 billion a year out of the state in order to pay for fuel, so projects like these won’t just help keep local tax rates low, but will also strengthen New Hampshire’s economy as a whole,” he said. 

When Sununu vetoed a previous attempt to raise the cap limit in 2018, he argued that it would pass costs for maintaining the grid over to non-solar-using ratepayers. This point of view is controversial and many advocates say local solar can lower everybody’s cause by reducing the need for new transmission lines.

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