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Business leaders tout savings from energy efficiency

Union Leader Correspondent

March 31. 2013 3:25PM

NEW LONDON - Two guest speakers told members of the New Hampshire Economic Development Association Friday that alternative, renewable energies are on the rise and saving money for many businesses.

Jay Gamble, vice president and general manager of Mt. Sunapee Resort, and Gary Lemay, renewable energy engineer at the New Hampshire Electric Co-op., spoke at the association's March meeting, which focused on the potential for companies to make "green" investments into natural gas, solar, wind and other alternative energy sources.

Gamble, who took charge of Mt. Sunapee Resort in 1998, said through more than $1 million in investments, Sunapee was able to reduce its energy needs from 6.2 million kilowatt hours in 2006 to about 5.2 million kilowatt hours in 2010.

He said green investments may not make sense for all companies.

"Green is not cheap," he said. "The key to going green is return on investment, and making sure what you're investing in isn't a fad, but will have a payback. It's a reality-based green."

Examples of "fads" that the resort has avoided are wind energy and use of biofuel blends, which Gamble said "are mostly for public relations strategies."

Instead, the resort's green strategy has focused on improving energy efficiency. Sunapee spent several hundred thousand dollars upgrading its snowmaking guns to "third-generation towers." While costly, the new towers require substantially less energy to run.

Likewise, the resort replaced its 40-year-old boilers with new boilers that are about one-third more efficient, he said. It replaced sign lights with LED lights and all old-style light bulbs were replaced with energy-efficient bulbs. High-value insulation was installed, and a full trash recycling program was started.

"We also took advantage of every energy audit that (Public Service of New Hampshire) has offered," he said.

Gamble said many small steps have led to big savings, but it took a lot of careful research and investment.

"What we do is skiing," he said. "But for an energy-intensive business, green can work."

Lemay told association members of improvements in solar technology, using the cooperative's new solar photovoltaic system, a solar array capable of producing 18,360 watts of electricity located next to the co-op's Sunapee District building in Newport. The array is designed to provide at least half of the building's energy, and is making good progress, he said.

The cooperative has spent more than $1 million beyond its core programs on alternative and renewable energy programs, he said. It is helping its members get rebates for solar hot water heating and other energy-efficient items.

"If every rooftop had a few (solar) panels, we'd be a lot better off," he said.

He said solar energy still needs technology advancements, but its usage is growing, particularly in other countries like Germany.

"We'll get there, advances are still needed, but we can do a lot with solar energy now," he said.

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