Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

Cheshire County, NH Implements Building Energy Improvements, Switch to Renewables

Old court house in Cheshire County opted to have a Froling Energy dried wood chip-fired boiler installed with city gas backup. (

Martin Wahl

Energy Efficient Investments of Merrimack, NH (EEI) was first introduced to Cheshire County NH in 2019. At the time the County had significant problems – their plan to renovate the Maplewood Nursing Home in Westmoreland, NH had priced out significantly over budget. The 45-year-old nursing home used steam heat from 1970’s oil boilers that were consuming more than 100,000 gallons of fuel per year and in dire need of improvement. The lead project architect, Ingrid Moulton Nichols of Banwell Architects, Lebanon, NH, suggested employing an energy performance contract. Under an energy performance contract, the facility owner engages the energy services company (EEI) to develop an energy savings plan and guarantee that the project’s energy conservation measures would provide at least a specified annual energy savings as a creative way to support the lease funding the project. If the savings fall below the specified amount, the contractor must pay the difference to the owner. EEI was selected and worked with the design team to incorporate a dry wood chip-fired system from Froling Energy of Keene, NH supplemented by in-room heat pumps. The project came in under budget and yielded more than $171,000 per year in energy savings. The team also obtained a $395,000 grant from New Hampshire’s Public Utility Commission.

Following the success of the Maplewood project, Cheshire County requested that EEI create a sustainability action plan to improve the efficiency of its other buildings and help the County transition off fossil fuels as its primary heating source.

What they did

Over the next three years EEI developed a plan tailored to each site ranging from the rural nursing home to downtown city courthouses. Here are the buildings and systems along with some of the issues they had, and the upgrades made:

  • Administration Building: Replace old lighting fixtures with LED lighting throughout. Replace inefficient, 1970s vintage gas boiler heating system and separate chiller unit with roof-mounted variable refrigerant volume (VRV) heat pumps that allow independent temperature settings at different locations in the building.

  • Maplewood Nursing Home: Replace the 25-year-old air conditioning system with an updated version. The old system used R-22 refrigerant that is no longer available and was at end of life.

  • New Courthouse: Replace lighting with LED units. All the buildings used different control systems, some almost 50 years old, so the New Courthouse’s Schneider Electric control system was expanded by ENE Systems of Bow, NH to cover all the buildings, simplifying energy system management significantly.

  • Froling Energy dried wood chip-fired boiler installed with city gas backup. (Boiler images: Froling Energy)

    County Hall/Old Court House: This historic building dating from the 1850s had received many upgrades over time, and now needed a new heating and air conditioning system as well as lighting upgrades. Based on the success at the Maplewood facility, the County opted to have a Froling Energy dried wood chip-fired boiler installed with city gas backup. A sprinkler system and LED lighting were also installed, incorporating new ceiling tiles.

  • Department of Corrections: Perhaps the most intriguing project of the five, the building already had a geothermal heat pump, relying on underground temperatures to cool the building in summer. This heated up the ground so that later on in the summer, the heat transfer became less efficient, stressing the heat pump system. EEI recommended upgrading the system to utilize the heat stored in the ground over the summer to supplement the heating system in the winter. Upgrades included adding a heat exchanger for supplementing domestic water heating and a cooling tower to manage higher temperatures in the summer if needed.

Show us the money

The total project cost for the five-building upgrades was little over $4.7 million. Half of the cost was offset with the County’s portion of Federal American Rescue Plan Act funding provided by New Hampshire , along with the Public Utility Commission’s $395,000 grant. EEI guarantees $100,000 of the payment through the performance contracting bond, based on projected annual energy and operational savings. Additionally, the County generates Thermal Renewable Energy Credits (see box for T-RECs discussion) that can generate revenue for the County.

So, how’s it going?

So far, project savings have exceeded the EEI guarantee limit, most recently $115,000, funding a large portion of the project payments for the County. The County enjoyed T-REC revenue of $4,000 last year, as well. The chart shows the source of project’s verified energy measurement savings, including $225,000 from the original Maplewood Nursing Home project.

Note to the chart. Cooling system savings for the Corrections and Administrative buildings estimated at $7,000 could not be separated out from the rest of the project, and total savings to the County from all the EEI projects is over $325,000.

EEI reports that the reduction in fuel oil consumption in the City Hall/Old Courthouse building has been 15,000 gallons per year, so, using the New England average of 6.7 pounds of CO2 equivalent emissions per gallon, has saved 50 tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually in addition to the 336 tons avoided from the earlier Nursing Home project.

It is important to note that Cheshire County is very pleased with the results. County Administrator Chris Coates said, “Cheshire County is consistently searching for creative solutions to pressing issues. The partnership between EEI and Cheshire County has been invaluable to ensure the County is finding new innovative ways to promote clean energy, prevent additional tax burdens on residents, and to ensure that all of our campuses are running as efficiently as possible. With the support of EEI, we have been able to achieve this goal, with a monumental reduction of 50 tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually.”

After a career in data product management, Martin Wahl has worked in biofuels since 2006, currently with Lee Enterprises Consulting, a large bio-economy consulting group. Dividing his time between California and New Hampshire, he serves on Corte Madera, California’s Climate Action Committee and is a Newfound Lake Region Association member. 

How T-RECs Helps Replace Fossil Fuels

T-Rex. Wikipedia image.

With apologies to paleontologists, T-RECs are Thermal Renewable Energy Credits, now adopted by many states, first launched in New Hampshire in 2012. Traditional RECs are generated by electricity producers that use renewable energy for non-renewable producers to acquire in order to meet their renewable energy portfolio requirements. Thermal RECs are generated when biomass, solar or geothermal sources are used to replace fossil fuel-sourced heating, chiefly for buildings. New Hampshire’s T-RECs are awarded based on an equivalence of 3.4 million BTUs to one megawatt hour of electric energy. The aim of the program is to keep money spent on heating in the state, instead of providing revenue to out-of-state fossil fuel producers as well as to help reduce fossil-sourced greenhouse gas emissions.

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