A Place to Grow (APTG), a childcare center in Brentwood, New Hampshire, has some features that set it apart. True, it takes children as young as six weeks, and true, it is open from 6:30 AM to 5:30 PM, but these are not the things that make it quite as unusual as it is. The unusual features have to do with a philosophy that offers the children a holistic understanding of nature, environmental stewardship and how human beings fit into a larger picture.
APTG was founded by Jennifer Briggs in 2005, but it recently made a big move that allowed it to operate in closer alignment with her own environmental feelings. Her philosophy aims to instruct children about nature and how to maintain it as the beautiful resource that it is. That being the case, it was perhaps perfect that she found a new location for APTG, with a 3,700-square-foot building sitting on 13 acres of land. She purchased the property in 2016.
Taking on such a large building and property had its challenges, but meeting them provided a value for instruction to others who might want to meet similar problems. The children, of course, can be shown the wonders of nature, but those of us who are not children might find the work done on the building, especially as regards to energy efficiency and independence, informative.
Briggs started with a building that had high costs. In February, 2017, just the propane bill was $1,200. She carefully went for the least expensive plan to buy propane, but nevertheless, for the whole year, the propane came to $4,005. While her business could not count on a steady inflow of money, she could see that the energy demands would vary considerably, and had to be kept under control.
The costs of upgrading may have seemed daunting, but Briggs was able to get some help. The support that she was able to line up included Community Development Finance Authority’s (CDFA) Clean Energy Fund, grants from the Public Utility Commission, Energy Tax Credits, one REAP Grant for energy efficiency and another for renewable energy, and Eversource Rebates.
She started with an energy audit, which cost $2,000 but was 75% covered by a CDFA grant. Sustainable Energy Education & Demonstration Services did work on this, including blower door testing. Based on the audit, she was able to come up with a plan. It included reducing heat loss with weatherization by Shakes to Shingles, a contractor in Concord, NH. Dependence on propane was reduced and heating efficiency increased as six heat pumps were installed by ReVision Energy, and adding a solar array for increased independence. Other work included changing out fluorescent and incandescent lights and other electric work by Amore Electric of Haverhill, Massachusetts.
The overall project was funded by CDFA, also. In the end it cost $93,000, with the principle reduced as rebates and grants came in. The loan was at 4% for ten years. The improved energy efficiency was partly covered by a rebate of $6883 from Eversource, and partly by a REAP Grant of $9263.
Renewable energy came in the form of a solar array on the roof, a 14.08-kilowatt (DC) system consisting of 44 solar panels. Installing it, however, required installing a new metal roof. The Public Utility Commission provided a grant of $4800. An Energy Tax Credits provided an additional $11827. And a REAP Grant put up $9856.
In the end, the $43,000 of the $93,000 was covered by grants, rebates, and credits. This meant that of the cost, $50,000 had to be paid off over ten years.
A Place to Grow has reduced its overall costs, even including the cost of paying off the loan. There is a 58% reduction in energy used from 2018 to 2019. Propane consumption dropped by 3,000 gallons per year. And the solar array saves over $400 per month, in a comparison of June and July, 2018, with the same months in 2019.
One great payoff is that the children can interact, play, and learn in more comfortable and more environmentally friendly surroundings.