Renewable Energy Tool Belt
It’s a familiar scene. You are a Local Energy Committee member and 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. Where would you begin?
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 in order to reduce energy costs over the life of the building. Solar companies are interested in getting your business, but is solar really the best option to achieve your financial goals? Would biomass heating save the town even more money? How would you start to compare the two?
Municipalities across NH want to incorporate renewable energy into their operations for various reasons. Some wish to save money, others want more reliable energy, and others have goals of reducing their environmental impact. Yet while municipalities know they don’t want fossil fuels, they are less clear about what type of renewable energy they do want. The Renewable Energy Tool Belt is designed to help municipalities evaluate potential renewable energy systems.
While the Tool Belt will not replace the work of an outside professional, it will give communities a starting point to compare renewable energy options. Communities will then enter into discussions with energy professionals having a better understanding of the benefits and drawbacks of each renewable energy type and will be able to make more informed decisions about which option is best for them.
Year 1 (2016)
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) In Progress
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.