Solar driven heat pumps, an option to Keene's proposed gas plant
Dear Mayor Lane,
I’m writing to you today to express concern for the plans by Liberty Utilities to expand gas service in Keene. It is quite the dilemma isn’t it?
Keene, one of the most influential and dynamic communities in New Hampshire, will be breaking ground for new fossil fuel infrastructure that will commit its customers to fossil fuel use for the next twenty years. Of course I understand that the Air/propane plant is problematic, but
The temporary plant is going in to feed Monadnock Marketplace. Has anyone approached the management of Monadnock Marketplace to discuss converting to air source heat pumps driven by solar? I took the liberty of calling Joe Harrison at the Community Development Finance Authority (CDFA) about their Energy Fund. Mr. Harrison explained that they are NOT an advocacy organization; they are an agency, but if the city or its businesses were interested, they have funding available to help with energy investments and renewable projects. I’m attaching two documents Mr. Harrison sent me about their energy programs.
You may also be aware that there is legislation and PUC rules pending that require pilot community solar/microgrid projects by the utilities. I ask the City of Keene, to please reach out to the CDFA and New Hampshire Sustainable Energy Association (NHSEA) to discuss the potential for hosting a pilot project in Keene to REDUCE the use of fossil fuels.
Although heating buildings with natural gas is very cheap today, the push to export natural gas as LNG at the Goldboro facility under construction in Nova Scotia and set to go into operation in 2021 to 2022, will surely have an impact on natural gas prices in New England. Pieridae, already has an approved export license for up to 1 bcf/day of LNG from the Department of Energy. Pieridae and Goldboro plan to get that gas from the Maritimes & Northeast pipeline coming from New England. http://pieridaeenergy.com/goldboro-lng/ Withdrawing 1 bcf/day from the available economic capacity in New England of approximately 5 bcf/day seems like a pricing crisis in the making to me.
Personally, I do not think it is a coincidence that Liberty Utilities has focused on the most powerful economic centers in New Hampshire to expand their offerings. If the export plans go through, those towns; Concord, Pelham, Keene, Lebanon, and Hanover will be clamoring for pipelines to relieve the pressure on pricing. To watch how quickly the Legislature voted for the shutdown of Concord Steam, an aging biomass company that co-generated district steam and electricity would make your head spin. They did not do a credible economic analysis of the benefit to the State for converting to natural gas from district steam; they simply presented the $25 million required to convert State buildings as an emergency. Legislators were basically told that there was “No Alternative” and if they didn’t vote for this, the State House would be cold next year.
Investing in air source heat pumps and weatherization are in line with what happened in Maine through their “Efficiency Maine” project. Maine went from #16 in terms of national rankings for Energy Efficiency in 2014 to #11 in 2016 and I’ve heard that their heat pump program was the driving factor.
While it’s true that current natural gas prices beat the cost of operating air source heat pumps. The heat pumps still beat the cost of oil or propane (and wood) heating by quite a lot! http://www.efficiencymaine.com/at-home/home-energy-savings-program/heating-cost-comparison/.
Moreover, converting more of our heating load to air source heat pumps matches a national trend, only the Northeast is still increasing use of natural gas for home heating.
When we use highly efficient electric powered heat pumps, we encourage diversity in our energy supply. Electricity can be generated by wind, solar, hydro, or biomass as well as traditional fossil fuels. Partnering with CDFA, NHSEA and the electric utilities might also result in a commercial community solar project.
Thank you for your leadership.