Peterborough Takes Team Approach to Local Energy Policies

By Fash Farashahi and Nicole MacStay

In 2006, with the support of a Town Meeting vote, Peterborough replaced the Library’s outdated oil burners with a new hybrid heating system, utilizing both a primary wood pellet furnace and a secondary oil burning furnace. The hybrid heating system was created in part by the Town Energy Advisory Group (TEAG), an ad-hoc committee made up entirely of citizen volunteers. Wood pellets became a viable option for the library after a preliminary assessment.

In August of 2007, Antioch University graduate student Mindy Pistacchio completed an assessment of the first winter with the pellet furnace as a primary source of heat at the Library. She concluded that the transition to wood pellets had replaced 1,330 gallons of No. 2 heating oil, saving the Town approximately $615.26. Over the last year petroleum import prices increased by 78.6 percent (according to the U.S. Import and Export Price Indexes, June 2008, Bureau of Labor Statistics, July 11, 2008), and the cost of heating oil is now approaching $5.00 a gallon; the savings are anticipated to be far above and beyond any previous expectations.

What began as a TEAG vision has become a carbon-reducing, cost-saving, local economy supporting reality. New England Wood Pellet, LLC is located in neighboring Jaffrey; most of the wood they used for pellets comes as waste from mills within a 50-mile radius. With the success of the wood pellet boiler, the Town of Peterborough is looking confidently at the possibility of installing wood pellet boilers both in the new wastewater treatment plant and in the town hall.

Several programs and policies have also been initiated by TEAG and carried out by the Board of Selectmen, staff and volunteers. The majority of town hall lighting bulbs were replaced with compact fluorescent lightbulbs. A Green Purchasing Policy was adopted by Board of Selectmen in 2006, and the town signed on to Carbon Challenge with a goal of a 5 percent reduction in carbon footprint by 2010. Coupled with the Carbon Challenge was Peterborough’s municipal energy audit, conducted by Nancy Gamble, another talented Antioch University graduate student. Nancy compiled all the energy bills from the various vendors and produced an excellent baseline audit of municipal energy uses by buildings and types of fuel used. The staff continues to use her work as a means to monitor energy usage as it applies to our carbon reduction goal. This team approach, which unites the efforts of multi-department town employees and the talents and energy of interns behind the drive of an all-volunteer advisory group, has served Peterborough well as it seeks to respond to today’s energy challenges.

Fash Farashahi is the GIS Specialist/Planner with the Town of Peterborough’s Office of Community Development. Nicole MacStay is Assistant to the Town Administrator.