Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

Plymouth Area Renewable Energy Initiative in Plymouth, NH

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George Harvey

Perhaps there is one thing we could stress about PAREI, the Plymouth Area Renewable Energy Initiative. It is that no matter how you describe it, PAREI is more than a solar installation business.

PAREI only installs solar systems at home sites of its members, all of whom live in or near Plymouth, New Hampshire. But PAREI does more than install solar panels; it also offers expertise and resources for sustainable community living that range from efficiency to agriculture.

This seems to have been true right from the beginning. When we asked Sandra Jones, PAREI’s director and co-founder, when they started, she told us PAREI got its non-profit status from the U.S. federal government in February 2004. Its 25 founding members were concerned about saving oil, gas, and electricity. They wanted to learn about solar power, and they wanted to install their own solar systems, but they wanted much more.

Even as PAREI’s founders were teaching themselves to install solar water heating systems through a neighbor-helping-neighbor process, and to inspire others to use solar energy, they knew that more than just a focus on solar energy was needed. For example, Sandra said that food is “part of the equation.” So PAREI has been working holistically to address the shortcomings of a narrow approach to the needs communities and those who live in them. As they provide new paths to solar power, they also help farmers and gardeners, providing everyone with a source for information. And this is equally true for members and non-members. Along with developing and distributing expertise on conserving and generating energy, PAREI has run an on-line weekly farmers market called Local Foods Plymouth (LFP) since 2006.

Jones told us there are three important actions in PAREI’s plan: inform, inspire, and assist. The organization offers community-based consulting, but it provides one-on-one solutions. And this means helping other organizations do what PAREI is doing, in their own communities. One example is HAREI, in Hillsborough County, New Hampshire, which followed their mission.

A look at the programs at the PAREI website is informative. Just consider its programs for a moment.

  • NH Solar Shares helps get community solar systems built, with all of the benefit going to low-income families.

  • NH Rural Renewables helps small businesses and agricultural producers in the rural regions of New Hampshire, helping them evaluate and assess potentials for renewable energy.

  • The NHSaves Button Up Workshop Series gives guidance on energy-efficiency and building science. It can present a detailed presentation on the subject.

  • Local Foods Plymouth helps growers and consumers in a number of ways, including running an on-line weekly, year-round, local farmers’ market at

  • The Farm to Community Food Sharing Program is specifically tailored to help food-insecure community members by bringing them farm-fresh, locally grown nutritious food.

  • Little Gardens Everywhere provides resources, including educational workshops, to the community. It is run to develop a diverse, abundant, accessible, and local food supply.

As we said, it seems no matter how you describe it, PAREI is more than a solar installation business, in fact they are not a business per se, they are a non-profit organization built on creating community solutions to assist their members to produce solar energy and reduce their energy consumption.

Even when it comes to designing and installing solar systems, PAREI stands out as a different sort of organization. Jones said, “The philosophy of PAREI is to work on one household at a time. Our members sign up for either an energy consultation or a solar energy analysis. We have over 1,500 in our database who are mindful of living and creating solutions to reduce their carbon footprint, in the way that works best for them. We don’t tell them what to do, but give them options.” Clearly, that involves a lot of consulting to find out what people want.

Part of PAREI’s work is to inspire other organizations in New Hampshire. Jones said, “The state has come a long way, and we are primarily focused on the Plymouth area now. People come visit and see what we do. Anyone can join. There are many options members can take advantage of. We appreciate people’s general support for our mission, too.”

One thing PAREI is looking for currently is interest from New Hampshire businesses who want to support a local project that is meaningful to them in lieu of paying their NH taxes. “The Community Development Finance Authority via their Tax Credit program allows businesses to choose non-profits to support,” Jones told us. “We were awarded the opportunity to sell $150,000 in tax credits to support PAREI’s goals to strengthen our community programming and build our organizational capacity. If businesses are interested in learning more please give our office a call at 603-536-5030.”

Jones also described an interesting approach to thinking about energy, regardless of whether they install solar systems or not. She tells people, “Just appreciate the energy. When you jump into your car and go to the farm stand, think of the amount of energy it takes to make that happen. Appreciate it. That way you may think twice before wasting it.

PAREI’s website is

PAREI Captions

Over the last year, PAREI volunteers have turned a vacant building in disrepair into their new long-term home designed to be net zero energy. Exterior painting, building gardens, and installing solar PV are the next steps. (PAREI)

Farmer photo:

Local Foods Plymouth program staff and farmers celebrate the opening of PAREI’s new pavilion at the site of their new office at 300 Main Street in Plymouth, NH at the corner of Fairgrounds Road and Rte 3. (PAREI)

Solar on this residence was installed via PAREI members. (Courtesy photo)

PAREI’s Community Solar Shares array in Warren, NH provides solar energy credits on the electric bills of nine local families in need of assistance. Appleknockers General Store generously donated their roof space to NH Solar Shares. (Courtesy photo)

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