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Andover Town Offices Move Toward Net Zero

Andover town office building. Photo by Larry Chase.

Andover town office building. Photo by Larry Chase.

By George Harvey

Andover, New Hampshire, a town of almost 2,400 people, has a long commitment to conservation. It has been thirty years since 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,” (http://bit.ly/GET-Proctor-Continues). That article, which appeared in December of 2016, described the school’s dining hall, which has net-zero energy usage.

Recently, people of the town started to consider energy use in a building shared by the town offices and the library. It was built in 1885 and expanded in 2001. In 2011, it was given an energy audit funded with a grant through the New Hampshire Local Audit Exchange Program and with assistance from the Jordan Institute.

In 2014, a volunteer committee, the Andover Energy Group (AEG), had led a successful solarize program in the town as part of Solarize Kearsarge. It was natural for the AEG to turn its attention to the audit’s recommendations. With leadership from Randall Costa, and the support of the town’s select board, the AEG created a four phase plan to make the building as close to net-zero for energy as feasible.

The first step would be insulation and air sealing. For the second, 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 implemented rather easily. The New Hampshire Electric Cooperative (NHEC) helped with incentives, reducing the cost for both to $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 based in Concord, NH, and the LED replacement was completed by EcoLectric LLC from Plymouth, NH.

NHEC also helped with incentives that kept the cost of two air-source heat pumps and five distribution units to slightly less than $10,000, for which EcoLectric made the lowest bid. This expenditure, however, had to go before the town meeting.

After conducting diligence on a solar system, the AEG worked through a power purchase agreement (PPA) for a roof-mounted system covering the building’s projected needs with ReVision Energy. The PPA would reduce the town’s electric bills immediately and required minimal capital outlay, and the town would be able to buy the system after six years. But this system also had to be put before the town meeting.

The AEG produced a presentation for the town showing that running heat pumps was much less expensive than heating with fossil fuels and would improve the building’s working environment. With a solar array with a PPA from ReVision, even greater cost cutting was possible.

The Andover town offices and library would retain one link to the fossil fuel age. It would retain its 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. 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 for a total capacity of 20.4 kilowatts, and is conservatively expected to save the town over $50,000 over its first 25 years of service. Because of the layout of the roof, 40 panels face south; the rest of the panels face east or west but will get sunlight for the best part of the day.

“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!”

Many thanks to our sponsor:

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