Renewable Energy Tool Belt
Imagine you are a Local Energy Committee member. You have been tasked with implementing the Energy chapter of your town’s Master Plan. You’d like to focus on the recommendation to increase your town’s renewable energy use. What would be the most effective way to do that? Should you recommend that the town install its own renewable energy system? Or would it be better to purchase green power directly from an electricity supplier? How would you make the decision?
Imagine next that you are a Facilities Committee member. You are planning for a new Fire Station in town and you’d like it to incorporate renewable energy. Solar companies call you daily to get your business, but is solar really the best option for the building? Would biomass heating work even better? How would you start to compare the two?
These are questions communities across New Hampshire face as they work to increase their use of renewable energy. Until now, there has not been a tool to help them begin to compare renewable energy options. With that in mind, the Nashua Regional Planning Commission in partnership with the Local Energy Solutions Work Group (LESWG) is developing the “Renewable Energy Tool Belt.” The Tool Belt will consist of a series of worksheets and short decision guides that will help communities to compare production potential and return on investment among various renewable energy options.
Year 1 (2016) Summary
NRPC began Year 1 by selecting dedicated project partners from within the LESWG to assist in this work, including NH Sustainable Energy Association, Vital Communities, GDS Associates, and Resilience Planning & Design. NRPC and its partners then selected six municipalities across NH to participate in individual community meetings to capture the challenges and needs they face when making decisions regarding renewables. Communities were selected to represent the state as a whole and included Nashua, Brookline, Pembroke, Lancaster, Orford, and Lebanon. NRPC and its partners developed an interview guide to serve as an outline for the conversation and met with each community in July and August of 2016. Next, NRPC and its project partners created a self-administered short-form survey, which was designed to follow-up on topics covered during the long-form interviews and drill deeper into specific themes that arose. It was distributed electronically to communities across NH in October.
NRPC documented this work in a four part report titled “Renewable Energy Tool Belt: Year 1 Research.” Part 1 serves as an introduction to the Renewable Energy Tool Belt project and provides an overview of key findings from Year 1. Parts 2 and 3 summarize and analyze the long-form interviews and short-form survey responses. Part 4 consists of the Appendix.
Year 2 (2017) Preview
At the outset of this project NRPC anticipated spending time and resources to actually develop the Renewable Energy Tool Belt components in Year 1. As the project progressed, however, it became clear that it was much more important to spend our time and resources engaged with municipalities and stakeholders than it was to rush and create the Tool Belt. NRPC and its partners will ultimately create a product that is more beneficial and tailored to the needs of municipalities by taking the time to fully understand the challenges they face when making decisions about renewable energy and the specific tools they need to overcome these barriers. As such, NRPC applied to the NH Charitable Foundation’s Community Grants Program and was awarded a second Large Project Grant to continue development of the Renewable Energy Tool Belt.
Major activities in Year 2 include:
- Determine specific Tool Belt components to be developed based on the needs documented in Year 1.
- Research existing resources that could be used in the Tool Belt.
- Create a draft of the Tool Belt.
- Establish criteria for selecting pilot communities and choose two municipalities to test the Tool Belt with.
- Utilize the Tool Belt with the selected pilot communities and document its strengths and weaknesses.
- Edit the Tool Belt based on input from pilot communities.
- Launch and distribute the Tool Belt statewide.
The NH Dept. of Environmental Services (NH DES) is conducting a Fluvial Erosion Hazard study in select watersheds across the State. The purpose of this project is to gather information on the causes of erosion and other river movements, identify property and infrastructure at risk, and determine how areas at greatest risk can be targeted for hazard mitigation opportunities such as culvert replacements or bank stabilization projects.
Within the Nashua Region a majority of the fluvial erosion analysis is being done in the Souhegan River Watershed, in the municipalities of Amherst, Lyndeborough, Merrimack, Milford, Mont Vernon, and Wilton. Assessments are also being conducted in the Piscataquog River Watershed, including the South Branch Piscataquog River in Lyndeborough.
NRPC was awarded funding from NH DES to engage in outreach activities in the towns of Amherst, Lyndeborough, Merrimack, Milford, Mont Vernon, and Wilton in support of the Fluvial Erosion Hazard program. NRPC’s primary task was to complete hazard mitigation plan updates in these municipalities, incorporating fluvial erosion hazard data that results from the NH DES study. The resulting plans can be found on NRPC's Hazard Mitigation Planning page.