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Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

Goosebay Sawmill and Lumber

Retail barn with rooftop solar (Photos: Goosebay Sawmill and Lumber)

George Harvey

Goosebay Sawmill and Lumber in Chichester, NH has been in continuous operation since it was started in 1978 by Carl Mahlstedt. Goosebay is family owned and operated. Son Carl runs the daily operations with his dad, and family member Lydia West is the CFO.

Having been very hard hit by the 2008 recession, the company wasn’t sure what to expect when Covid-19 hit the country. They immediately reached out to the NH Small Business Development Center (SBDC). The SBDC provides guidance and counseling to businesses free of charge. They help to pair up businesses with available programs to help them improve their operations.

Pine barn with
rooftop solar

As we all know, the pandemic resulted in a dramatic increase in the demand for lumber. Goosebay saw an increase in customers looking for a variety of woods. The demand came first from people wanting eco-friendly wood for raised garden beds, then from do-it yourself homeowners wishing to make improvements and craftspeople looking for materials for woodworking projects.

Goosebay continued their relationship with the SBDC, which offered help in a variety of areas. One suggestion they made was to take advantage of a Level II Energy Audit in partnership with both the Community Development Finance Authority and Unitil.

The audit directly addressed Goosebay’s main Retail Barn, but also included general conversations regarding improvements that could be made both in the Sawmill and in the Pine Barn, which houses some retail space (mainly for pine lumber!), a large planer, kiln, and cabinet shop.

LED lighting inside the retail barn

Updating all the lighting to LEDs was an easy decision to make. Another easy clean energy decision was to convert the sawmill from diesel power to electricity. Discussions of heating options were more complicated. The main areas heated are the Retail Barn and the cabinet shop. The Retail Barn is currently heated with radiant heat in the concrete floor. It’s a very efficient heat for the space. The large overhead door is often open in order to move lumber in and out of the barn. In the colder months, the heated mass of the concrete floor makes the heat recovery much faster. Additionally, any system installed must be dust-tolerant.

Goosebay explored air-to-water heat pumps that would allow them to continue using their radiant heat. The technology needed for this type of commercial system exists in the world, but is not readily available in the US. The recommendation from the energy audit was to wait a few years for the technology to catch up.

Expecting a big increase in demand for electricity as a result of converting the sawmill and heating systems to clean energy, Goosebay decided to explore installing a solar array. Using the expected future demand, as defined in the Energy Audit, they asked for bids from a few companies. ReVision Energy was chosen to install the arrays.

Electric sawmill at Goosebay Sawmill & Lumber

Lydia West, as Goosebay’s CFO, was able to find the resources they needed to help finance the solar arrays. She did not expect the project to pay off, initially, but soon found that it would be, in her words, “financially netpositive after year one.”

Goosebay now has two rooftop solar systems. One on the retail building has 126 Renewable Energy Corporation 330-watt panels, and one on the pine barn has 111 panels of the same type. Each system has a SolarEdge inverter and is separately metered.

According to Brittany Angelo of ReVision Energy, the combined capacity is 78.2 kilowatts, and the systems are expected to produce about 96,034 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year. They will offset about 101,634 lbs of carbon dioxide per year, which is the equivalent of taking ten passenger cars off the road.

Goosebay has not stopped. They continue to look for more ways to decrease their carbon footprint. They are watching the development of electric vehicles and are looking forward to incorporating them into their fleet.

Goosebay Sawmill sells over seventy species of hardwood and softwood sourced both locally and from around the world. Their web site is goosebaylumber.net.

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