Solar is the latest major improvement at the Common Man Roadside at the Hooksett Welcome Centers. Just northbound of the Hooksett, NH tolls on I-93, the welcome centers used to feature just a no-frills rest area alongside the infamous interstate liquor stores. In a public-private partnership between the state and Granite State Hospitality (a partnership between Alex Ray of the Common Man Family and fellow NH businessman Rusty McLear), the welcome centers were renovated, expanded and renewed, bringing new life and now clean energy to a pit stop that has become part of the trip for many traveling to NH’s mountain region and further northward.
A total of 388 solar panels adorn the rooftops on either side of the highway, placed strategically on select sunny roofs. The multiple roof surfaces and pitches necessitated a more complex design that would not only maximize electricity production, but also fit seamlessly with the neat aesthetics of the buildings in a very high visibility location. The location itself brings with it a unique opportunity. “Of those roughly 30,000 cars a day that drive by, we’re hopeful we can help educate people that solar is a viable way to produce electricity, and that it can be done in a way that makes economic sense,” says Brad Pernaw, Managing Partner of Granite State Hospitality, LLC.
With a lease on the property from the state, Granite State Hospitality revamped the welcome centers back in 2015, expanding and improving the liquor stores but also adding a food court featuring a variety of Common Man family eateries, improved restrooms, a general store, fueling stations and high speed Tesla EV charging stations. The Welcome Centers even include a branch of Merrimack County Savings Bank and a League of NH Craftsmen store.
As Brad notes, the Welcome Centers have become part of the trip experience for many. “I’ve been working the ski season for four years now. You get to recognize people – we’re part of your journey now.” The Common Man family is known for their all-New Hampshire-based enterprises, including more than 20 properties, and upwards of 1,000 employees. The Welcome Centers are no exception in bringing money back into the NH economy – in fact the overhaul of the welcome centers was completed with all NH-based companies, for all design and construction. With solar from ReVision, yet another piece of this project supports a healthy NH economy.
The 122 kilowatt array (combined total of both Northbound and Southbound) will produce upwards of 137,000 kilowatt-hours of clean electricity each year. That is enough to offset approximately 10% of their total utility consumption on site, while the financial benefits to their enterprise include more than $700,000 in total energy savings over a 40 year lifespan of the arrays.
Keeping NH Green (and Snowy!)
Beyond economic gain, the solar project also lends environmental sustainability to a portion of the state’s economy that depends heavily upon it – tourism. In NH, the ski season is threatened by the climate crisis and dwindling winters, meaning less snow cover and a shortened ski season. Just like the revitalization project was designed and built to suit and benefit its NH home, the solar project also will have a direct impact on the state. “In NH we like to do things our own way, rather than cookie cutter projects,” says Brad. “We had a chance to do something that was better for the environment.” Now as people come through NH on I-93 to ski or just enjoy the beauty of nature, part of their journey is doing its part to preserve it.
In addition to solar, there are high speed Tesla EV charging stations on both sides of the highway that offer a full charge in for Tesla vehicles less than an hour. Providing this technology is just part of ensuring that they are with the times rather than behind them – with more people conscious of the impact their travel has on the environment, commuting habits are changing as more people start to transition to all-electric transportation.
This solar project isn’t the first collaboration between ReVision Energy and the Common Man family – ReVision originally installed a solar hot water array on the Common Man Restaurant in Concord back in 2013. These most recent solar installations at the Common Man Roadside at the Hooksett Welcome Centers are now up and running, making clean energy and benefitting the planet by keeping more than 145,000 lbs of carbon out of the atmosphere every single year from this one on forward. This positive impact follows in the footsteps of Alex Ray and the Common Man’s guiding mission: Do Good. “It’s been a very positive experience,” says Brad.
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