New England’s First Music Venue Powered 100% by Solar
Derry, New Hampshire – In 1994 when Julie and Scott Hayward opened Tupelo Music Hall in a repurposed 1890’s farmhouse in Londonderry, New Hampshire, they had the intention of providing occasional music shows to locals. Their formula for showcasing nationally recognized artists in an intimate setting resulted in rapidly outgrowing the available space. So in 2016 the Haywards invested $1.8 million in renovating a former sports club in the neighboring town of Derry, opening the new Music Hall in March 2017. Capacity increased from 240 to 700, featuring 200 events and shows annually with artists such as Melissa Etheridge, Lyle Lovett and Toto in the 20,000 sf facility with flexible seating arrangements suitable for performances or special events, an in-house kitchen and fully-stocked bar.
After a few months of operation, the Haywards made the decision to power their facility’s lights, sound system, electrical instruments, and kitchen coolers with solar energy powered by panels on the newly-replaced roof. Tupelo Music Hall's electric bill averages about $30,000 per year, but with the solar panels, the hall's electricity will be virtually free after seven years. Owner Scott Hayward said reducing the venue's carbon footprint is a big reason for the investment. "We all have kids and grandkids, and we have generations coming after us, so why not leave the world in better shape? From the time we started construction, one of goals of Tupelo Music Hall was to operate the business to minimize our carbon footprint as much as possible. The use of biodegradable consumables, LED lighting, recycling and investing in energy-efficient appliances are some of the ways we’ve done this,” remarked Hayward.
Right now, Hayward said one of the biggest benefits is a federal tax break. He admitted that New Hampshire should consider enhancing its solar net metering laws, which set a limit of 1 megawatt per year on energy that can be sold back into the grid by independent producers such as homeowners and businesses like Tupelo.
Guidance for new solar installation was provided by Derry NetZero Task Force With the assistance of Derry’s NetZero Task Force – a committee authorized by the Town Council consisting of local business professionals, town officials and members of the public committed to reducing energy consumption for the Town and its taxpayers – a business case was generated and bids solicited for the project. NetZero Committee Chairman Jeff Moulton expressed satisfaction with the successful launch of Tupelo’s solar installation. “The NetZero Committee began working with Scott Hayward while he was renovating this building and considering incorporation of a renewable energy project. We helped prepare a business case, evaluated building siting and electrical panel locations, and identified suppliers to install the solar panels. Another Derry 86kw solar installation was inaugurated in May 2018 at the Town’s Fordway Transfer Station, which is projected to save taxpayers about $500,000 in electrical costs over the anticipated system lifetime.”
Derry Counselor and Committee Vice-Chairman Joshua Bourdon added “The NetZero Task Force mission is to identify and facilitate opportunities for renewable energy for the Town of Derry. If we can assist local businesses in evaluating feasibility for renewable energy, we are glad to contribute some time to provide independent advice. "I want to thank Scott for being a leader in the community," Bourdon continued. "He chose to come to Derry, and is such a strong proponent of this community. He is leading by example and we are grateful he chose to be here and adopt clean renewable energy to power Tupelo Music Hall."
ReVision Energy completed system installation in five weeks ReVision Energy, a Brentwood New Hampshire solar energy company, started work in August 2018, requiring about five weeks for completion. An array of 313 60-cell solar panels producing 100kw is expected to generate 114,000 kwh per year, sufficient to offset 100% of the hall’s annual electrical load, cutting over 120,000 pounds of carbon pollution per year. Project costs totaled about $220,000 after incentives and rebates, partly financed by Enterprise Bank.
Director of Market Development for ReVision Energy, Dan Weeks, reported that after the six- to seven-year payback period, the array will generate free electricity for decades to come. “The array is forecast to save over three-quarters of a million dollars in electric costs over the expected 40-year life of the system including factors for inflation of electricity, or about $320,000 over the system’s 25-year warranty. Thanks to advances in solar technology, businesses such as Tupelo, and homeowners with appropriate roof or land area, can choose to install solar, save money and help their environment. Tupelo is the first music hall we know of in New England that is now 100% solar-powered! To see them leading this clean energy transition is really exciting," Weeks said.
One of the innovations of this installation is that the solar array is mounted on a modular Ecofoot™ roof racking platform made by Equilibrium Solar, requiring no penetrations or intrusions into the flat roof. According to Weeks, “This tray mounting system uses cement blocks as ballast to anchor a rack holding the solar panels, which can be expected to withstand even gale-force winds. If the roof ever needs repair, it requires low labor cost to remove a section holding some solar panels, make the repair, and replace that section. Electrical conduit is routed over the side of the building to a bank of all-weather inverters, which function efficiently even in cold weather.”
Derry Director of Economic Development Beverly Donovan said “We’re excited to have this leadership solar project here in Derry to serve as a model for other town businesses, and for them to consider investing in renewable energy.” Although he is aware of music venues in other states powered entirely by solar, Hayward said there is no downside to being the first in New England, and “It definitely supports our brand, and we hope other businesses follow our example.” [971 words]