A new program is providing free technical assistance to business owners and agricultural producers in rural regions of NH, helping them evaluate and assess the potential for using renewable energy at their business. Lakes Region Community College, along with Plymouth Area Renewable Energy Initiative (PAREI) and NH Sustainable Energy Association (NHSEA) are teaming up to provide this free technical assistance. Rural businesses interested in installing solar photovoltaic, solar thermal, wood heat, and other renewable energy technologies can receive educational information and preliminary site evaluations at no cost. This Renewable Energy Development Assistance two-year grant is part of USDA Rural Development’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), which has a variety of energy efficiency and renewable energy grant and loan programs.
“Our goal is to help businesses reduce their energy costs with sustainable solutions. We can help them take a close look at whether a renewable energy project is technically and financially feasible for their site. If a business likes the idea of renewables or energy efficiency, we want to help them take the next step, explore their options and make the process less complicated,” says Andy Duncan, energy training manager at Lakes Region Community College who is coordinating the NH Rural Renewables effort.
The development assistance provided by NH Rural Renewables will be vendor neutral. “Our project team will work with business owners to help them become more knowledgeable about their options so they are more informed when it comes time to get quotes from renewable energy vendors,” says Duncan. The team will also be leveraging energy efficiency technical assistance from the utility-based NHSaves @ Work program as well as the Rural Energy Development Assistance grant team at the NH Community Development Finance Authority. “We like to say ‘reduce then produce’” says Duncan. “Energy efficiency and renewable energy work well together.”
The Plymouth Area Renewable Energy Initiative will be lending their expertise to help in this endeavor. They will draw from their 14 years of renewable energy experience using field experts and interns to assist with the site evaluations and preparing reports for the interested business owners. “This is a fantastic hands-on educational opportunity for emerging energy professionals. We will be providing at least four different internship experiences as part of our participation in Rural Renewables”, says Sandra Jones, Co-Founder of PAREI.
“We often hear about the high cost of energy in New Hampshire—and many businesses are not aware that renewable energy technologies are a viable option to control their costs. As New Hampshire’s only statewide organization dedicated solely to clean energy advancement, we are excited to work with farmers and small business owners to harness the economic and environmental benefits of locally produced renewable energy,” says Kate Epsen, the executive director of the NH Sustainable Energy Association. “NHSEA will also bring the expertise of the long-standing NH Wood Energy Council—a group of dedicated members leading the deployment of modern wood chip and pellet heating—to this new program. Epsen adds, “we want to capitalize and streamline our collective decades of energy expertise for the good of our rural economy.”
The USDA Rural Development recognizes that energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies help rural businesses achieve economic sustainability. The Agency supports businesses making energy investments through REAP and has an upcoming grant deadline of Oct. 31, 2017. Technical assistance programs such as NH Rural Renewables can help prepare businesses to access these federal funds. Businesses seeking information about REAP can contact USDA Energy Coordinator Ken Yearman at (802) 828-6070 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interested businesses and agricultural producers can go to www.lrcc.edu/nhrr which has commercial renewable energy information, web links, and a short survey. This survey will get the process going and will determine the business’ eligibility for the technical assistance. For more information, e-mail email@example.com or visit the web site, which also has contact information for LRCC, PAREI and NHSEA, who make up the NH Rural Renewables team.