Hampton's Lane Memorial Library projects big energy savings

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by Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Tuesday, December 13, 2011

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online]
Lane Library Director, Amanda Reynolds Cooper, loves the new energy efficient heating system they were able to obtain through an energy efficient loan offered by Unitil. [Deb Cram Photo]

HAMPTON — The town's Energy Committee, along with trustees of the Lane Memorial Library, have been working behind the scenes on a project to make the building more energy efficient with improvements more than paying for themselves.

The groups will ask voters in March to support a selectmen-sponsored warrant article to obtain a $79,964 zero percent interest loan from Unitil Corp. to replace the chiller system and to install new lighting at the library.

The projected energy savings would pay the loan back, and library officials would still see on top of that a $1,140 savings in their monthly utility budget, which is $60,000 for the year.

"The bottom line of this project is that we have an opportunity to really improve, not only the aesthetic and infrastructure of the library, but also to save a lot of money," said Dick Desrosiers, chairman of the town's Energy Committee.

Library Director Amanda Reynolds Cooper said both projects are long overdue. The systems are nearly 30 years old and not very energy efficient.

Reynolds Cooper said the library attempted to replace the entire heating and ventilation system in 2008, when they asked voters to support a $350,000 warrant article to replace the heating and ventilation system.

"The article failed spectacularly," Reynolds Cooper said. "It was too big of a ticket."

Since the defeat, she said, library officials have been looking at what they can do to complete the much needed project.

The Energy Committee got involved in 2010, when, with the aid of the Rockingham Planning Commission, it conducted an energy survey on the library and other municipal buildings.

"The most significant energy need was the library," Desrosiers said. "It basically indicated we could have tremendous opportunity if we could replace the boilers, air conditioning chiller and the lighting system in the library."

Reynolds Cooper said the trustees paid $38,000 to replace the boiler system.

As part of that, the trustees received a $9,000 rebate from Unitil for installing a more energy-efficient system. Now they hope to do the other part of project via the zero interest loan program through Unitil.

Tim Noonis, of Unitil, said the utility is able to offer the loan thanks to the the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a program covering 10 states from Maine to Maryland.

Under RGGI, which was first launched in 2005, electricity generators that send carbon dioxide into the air, need to buy permits, which are mostly sold at regular quarterly auctions and can then be traded.

Proceeds from the auctions are used for energy-efficiency initiatives, and the program's goal is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants 10 percent by 2018.

"The (goal of RGGI) is the more businesses take advantage of these programs, in theory, the less electricity they will consume," Noonis said. "In theory, power plants will operate less frequently, therefore reducing greenhouse gases."

Noonis said Hampton is the first town in the state to take advantage of the loan program.

The program has since been expanded to include commercial businesses.

The cap per project is $50,000 and loan period with zero percent financing for up to 10 years.

Desrosiers said officials split the projects in two, with the chiller replacement costing $41,756.

The new lighting project will cost $36,896.

Both projects would be paid monthly through the utility bill, with energy savings paying the balance.

Noonis said the repaid loan money goes back into a pool to be used for other energy-efficient projects.

Currently the library spends $60,000 a year on energy costs. The projected annual savings, if both projects are completed, is $25,000.

Reynolds Cooper said if voters support the project, there will be no tax impact and the taxpayers would actually be saving money.

"This is the best opportunity we will ever have," Reynolds Cooper said.

While selectmen have yet to take an official vote to support the project, Selectman Jerry Znoj called it is a no-brainer.

"The taxpayers in Hampton will not have to pay anything out of their pocket," Znoj said. "The savings that will be realized from the preventive maintenance contract alone makes this is a slam dunk and we (the board) will be supporting it 100 percent."

The library currently spends $1,478 a month on a maintenance contract to keep the old equipment running. Projected monthly costs after the upgrades are $350 per month.

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