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After millions in federal investments for solar in N.H., USDA undersecretary says clean energy can be good for the economy too

franklin solar.jpg
Mara Hoplamazian
/
NHPR
Congresswoman Annie Kuster and USDA under secretary for rural development Xochitl Torres Small tour a solar array in Franklin, N.H.

US Department of Agriculture under secretary for rural development Xochitl Torres Small visited Franklin Monday to tout the $15 million dollars the USDA will invest in projects largely focused on clean energy in New Hampshire and Vermont.

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The funding includes $14.4 million in low-interest loans that will go to GoLight LLC to help finance the development of seven solar arrays across New Hampshire, in Goffstown, East Conway, Pittsfield and Franklin.

The projects will have the capacity to power about 1,600 homes every year, according to Andrew Catania, vice president of Aligned Climate Capital, a co-owner of the projects.

“USDA is doing this because investing in infrastructure that empowers rural communities to tackle the climate crisis while growing their economy will have tangible benefits for decades to come,” Torres Small said.

Democratic Congresswoman Annie Kuster and Democratic Congressman Chris Pappas joined Torres Small on the rainy December morning to discuss the importance of acting on climate change. Torres Small said the announcement was thanks to the work of Pappas and Kuster.

Rep. Kuster said that addressing climate change can be a “virtuous cycle,” creating jobs and helping the planet.

“And I think Franklin is such a great example of that. Economic development, new opportunities, lowering our carbon pollution, saving the planet. I think it’s a win-win-win,” she said in an interview with NHPR.

Federal resources can have a big impact on clean energy development in New Hampshire, Rep. Chris Pappas noted.

“We’re behind our neighbors in terms of the development of solar,” he said in an interview with NHPR. “We’re going to see a lot of solar projects benefit from the announcement of USDA funding here.”

Pappas said the Build Back Better legislation would scale up the development of clean energy resources in the state.

Dan Weeks, vice president of business development at Revision Energy, which will provide operations and maintenance support for the solar projects, said the importance of federal funds was particularly important in New Hampshire, which he says doesn’t have “meaningful state incentives” for solar.

“In other states with more aggressive clean energy goals, local incentives don't require this type of low-cost long-term debt,” he said. “But for states like New Hampshire, the USDA stepping in [and] providing low-cost capital is crucial,” he told NHPR.

Weeks said the investments in solar power will create jobs and lower electricity costs, delivering millions of kilowatt-hours to local communities.

Franklin Mayor Jo Brown said funding from USDA Rural Development has been important to Franklin’s revitalization. She said she’s excited about solar power in her community.

“We're the smallest city in New Hampshire, but we can do things like solar projects. We can do those sorts of things that will make us less reliant on the more traditional forms of fuel,” Brown said in an interview with NHPR.