Energy efficiencies in Town Offices
Featured in Green Energy Times
(The article below appears in the December 2017-February 2018 edition of Green Energy Times, published in Bradford, VT, and offering “sustainable solutions for VT, NH, MA, NY and beyond.” Two hundred copies come to Andover every other month, and are available for free pickup, while they last, at the Andover and East Andover post offices, and the Lake Sunapee Bank. Contents of current and back issues may also be accessed on the internet at www.greenenergytimes.org. The article is reprinted with permission of the publisher.)
Andover Town Offices Move Toward Net Zero
By George Harvey
Andover, New Hampshire, a town of almost 2,400 people, has a long commitment to conservation. Thirty years ago, an ordinance was brought before the town meeting to make recycling mandatory. It passed unanimously.
Readers of Green Energy Times may recognize Andover as the home of Proctor Academy, which was featured in “Proctor Academy Continues To Blaze Sustainable Path,” (bit.ly/GET-Proctor-Continues). That article, which appeared in December of 2016, described the school’s dining hall, which is heated and cooled with a substantial geothermal installation and has net-zero energy usage.
And in 2014, a volunteer committee, the Andover Energy Group (AEG), led a highly successful solarize program in the town as part of Solarize Kearsarge.
Recently, people of the town started to consider energy use in a building shared by the town offices and the library. Built in 1885 with an expansion in 2001, it was given an energy audit in 2011, funded with a grant through the New Hampshire Local Audit Exchange (LAX) Program and with assistance from the Jordan Institute. More recently, the AEG decided to focus its efforts on turning the audit’s recommendations into reality. With leadership from Randall Costa, and the support of the town’s Select Board, the AEG created a plan to make the building as close to net zero for energy as feasible.
The AEG produced a four-phase plan of action: It would start with insulation and air sealing. Then all lights would be replaced with LEDs. The third step was to install air-source heat pumps. Finally, the building would get a solar array for electricity.
The first two steps were not difficult to implement. The advantages of insulating and air-sealing are well known. Similarly, the advantages of LEDs are easily demonstrable. The New Hampshire Electric Cooperative (NHEC) provided help with financial incentives, reducing the cost for the two phases to a total of $5,600. This could be covered by the building's capital improvements fund, and work began in the fall of 2016. The insulation and sealing work was performed by Shakes to Shingles out of Concord, NH, and the LED replacement was completed by EcoLectric LLC from Plymouth, NH.
NHEC also provided help with incentives for the heat pumps, which kept the cost of two air-source heat pumps and five distribution units to slightly less than $10,000 (the winning bid for this work also went to EcoLectric). Here, however, the matter had to come before the town meeting.
After conducting diligence on the best approach for a municipality to acquire solar capability, the AEG decided to work with ReVision Energy to negotiate a power purchase agreement (PPA) for a roof-mounted installation equal to the building’s projected electrical needs, with the ability for the town to purchase the system after six years. Though the PPA would reduce the town’s electric bills immediately and required minimal capital outlay, the solar system also had to be put before the town meeting.
Given the information, the AEG produced a presentation for the town. They could show that running heat pumps was much less expensive than heating with fossil fuels, and would improve the building’s working environment. And if the town had a solar array with a PPA from ReVision, even greater cost cutting was possible. Also, the PPA would allow the town eventually to own the solar system at a substantial discount against its original installation cost, cutting costs further.
The Andover town offices and library would retain one link to the fossil fuel age. It would still have its old oil-fired heating system as a backup for the coldest times of winter and to maintain heat during power outages. This approach would shorten the payback period on the heat pumps, while still bringing the building very close to net-zero.
At the town meeting in March, Andover’s voters voted strongly to adopt the AEG plan, so work could proceed on the heat pumps and the solar system. The whole plan was executed by October, just about a year from the time the project started.
The solar installation is worth describing. It has 68 panels with a total capacity of 20.4 kilowatts. It was installed on the roof, and because of the building’s layout, 40 panels face south, 14 face east, and 14 face west. It is conservatively expected to save the town over $50,000 over its first 25 years of service.
“We are thrilled that the project is complete and already protecting the Town from fuel cost swings and improving the quality of the Town Offices environment. But just as importantly,” Costa said, “we are excited that every member of the community can participate in and join us in learning from this project – the Town Offices belong to everyone, and everyone can now see in real time and in their own lives how energy and carbon savings can really work!”