Riding along the Conway Scenic Railroad in New Hampshire, USA, passengers get breathtaking views of the New England countryside, White Mountains and Saco River. Among this scenery is the North Conway Water Precinct (NCWP), which provides water, sewer and fire protection services to North Conway and Bartlett, New Hampshire. The precinct plays a vital part in supporting the area’s residents, commerce and tourism.
This project protects our natural resources while effectively using renewable energy.
-Jeanne Shaheen, United States Senator
Now, riders can see alternative energy in action, thanks to recent upgrades put in place at NCWP’s 1.5-million-gallon-per-day wastewater treatment plant. Committed to complementing and preserving New Hampshire’s natural beauty, the precinct has undertaken an innovative project to reduce energy consumption and create new sources of energy by installing solar panels, geothermal wells and high-efficiency boilers.
David Bernier, superintendent with NCWP, notes the importance of keeping the precinct connected to—and respectful of—the natural environment. “North Conway is located right in the heart of the Mount Washington Valley, a tourist destination for hiking, biking and skiing. We own and operate a state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plant right in the hub of that activity.”
Progressive Client, Aggressive Schedule
Jennifer Osgood, CDM Smith project manager, explains that harnessing alternative energy was a priority for this project. “NCWP has always been very progressive and energy-focused, not only because of the beauty that surrounds them, but because of the cost savings for themselves and the community.”
Based on this ongoing commitment to use green technologies, invest in infrastructure and environmental protection, and promote economic recovery, the precinct contacted CDM Smith to help apply for competitive stimulus funding as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Drawing on years of shared partnership, NCWP and CDM Smith were able to secure $2.4 million of funding—50-percent grant and 50-percent low-interest loan.
“The good news was that NCWP had a great idea for an innovative project, and we were able to help them secure the necessary funding,” says Michael Walsh, CDM Smith vice president. “The bad news was that we only had 9 months to take this from an innovative concept to a final design package ready for bidding. We were on a very aggressive timeline that started in March of 2009 and ended in August of 2010 when the solar panels started producing energy.”
Reaching High and Digging Deep
Several alternative energy systems were considered as part of the precinct’s upgrades, including wind, solar and geothermal. Feasibility studies concluded that wind speeds would not be able to generate the energy needed to make a difference, but solar and geothermal options could.
The facility’s power supply is now being augmented by 744 solar panels, while 16 geothermal wells use the ground's thermal energy for the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system. These combined efforts will offset energy requirements by providing more than 200,000 kilowatt hours of electricity annually. The geothermal system and new high-efficiency boilers will help the facility save 6,000 gallons of oil per year.
“People might not think that New Hampshire is a viable solar venue,” notes Bernier, “but there isn’t a huge reduction between panels in Arizona and in New Hampshire. Cooler air temperatures actually help the electron balance; our highest production comes on sunny days in the winter.” The site’s bedrock also offers unique geothermal conditions for conducting heat.
A Shining Example
These improvements will reduce fossil fuel energy consumption and provide significant long-term cost and environmental benefits to the precinct and its ratepayers. CDM Smith’s feasibility studies and engineering work have helped make this a unique project that has become a model for other cities and towns.
After touring the precinct, United States Senator Jeanne Shaheen wrote a letter to Walsh expressing her pride in the project. “This project protects our natural resources while effectively using renewable energy. Initiatives such as this really demonstrate that leadership can take hold in any community and put resources to wise use for the long-term benefit of New Hampshire citizens.”
Osgood agrees, “This project was multi-disciplined and included exciting new technologies. While wastewater treatment plants are one sector where we are assisting to implement these types of energy projects, any municipal entity can continue making a difference through sustainable practices like these.”