The Wrack

The Wrack is the Wells Reserve blog, our collective logbook on the web.

Energy Initiative: The Sun is Shining Brightly

Posted by | October 3, 2013 | Filed under: Culture

150,000 pounds of carbon reduced/offset annuallyThe Wells Reserve at Laudholm is undergoing a C-Change*. At the start of 2012, we embarked on a multi-year, ambitious energy conservation and conversion initiative.

The initiative's goals were straight-forward but important:

  1. Begin the conversion to renewable energy for our electricity
  2. Conserve the energy we use for lighting and heating our buildings
  3. Make our overall operational practices more sustainable.

As a consequence of these efforts, we expected to reduce the amount of carbon we emit into the atmosphere and lessen the materials we use in everyday tasks. Now, a little over 18 months since the initiative began, we have made great strides in the areas of conversion and conservation.

Beginning the Move to Solar

We focused our renewable energy efforts on the purchase and installation of photovoltaic (PV) systems, known as solar panels. We found that "harvesting" energy from the sun is the most operationally simple and cost effective renewable energy source for our site.

Once we established our goal to get 25% of our electricity from on-site solar panels by January 2014, we pursued grants from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Mattina R. Proctor Foundation, and the Davis Conservation Foundation. We received additional support from Laudholm Trust members and Efficiency Maine.

Through a bid process we selected ReVision Energy, a Maine-based company with an excellent track record in designing, engineering, and installing PV systems. ReVision installed two solar arrays this past spring — one on the Maine Coastal Ecology Center (42,000 kWh/yr) and another on the Alheim Commons (16,000 kWh/yr). Combined with our reduction in energy use through operational efficiencies, these two arrays will produce 60% of our electrical needs — more than double our original goal!

The accompanying graphs reveal the dramatic increase in the use of renewable energy at the Reserve, and the reduction in carbon emissions because of the PV systems and our energy conservation efforts.

100% Renewable

Annual solar energy production at the Wells Reserve, in kilowatt-hoursSince 2008 we have been purchasing renewable energy through contracts facilitated by Maine PowerOptions. We just renewed our contract with a producer who will provide electricity generated by wind turbines. Combined with our on-site solar panels, all of our electricity is now generated from renewable sources.

A bright future awaits us in the realm of conservation and renewable energy. Our recent success inspires us to continue pushing. Our next goal: Produce 100% of our electricity through on-site generation by 2017.

* C-Change is a term borrowed from Daniel Yergin's The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World.

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