This summer, my family spent two weeks backpacking in the beautiful Sierra Nevada mountains of California. Luckily, we dodged the drought, record wildfires and lethal mudslides. When we emerged from the wilderness, what was the big headline? “California reacts to climate chaos by … advancing its goal for 100% renewable energy to 2045.” Action, reaction.
Keene is also feeling the effects of climate change. Let’s outdo California and join 89 other cities by committing to 100 percent renewable electrical energy by 2030. The Clean Energy Team, Monadnock Progressive Alliance and the Sierra Club are asking the city for a resolution regarding this ambitious goal. I applaud their efforts and trust the city will not only adopt the resolution, but quickly develop plans to attain the goal.
Lest you think this is pie in the sky, know that up until the mid-1940s, Keene did get most of its electricity from local hydro power, the original renewable. There are about 3,700 kilowatts of local hydropower already online. This could provide 10 percent of Keene’s needs. But the largest component of Keene’s clean energy future is energy conservation and efficiency. When this happens, hydro becomes a bigger piece of the pie.
ISO-NE, the regional grid operator, already notes annual energy usage region wide is shrinking by 1 percent per year because of efficiency and distributed solar. We should target annual reductions of 5 percent to help Keene attain its energy goal. One of the best examples of an energy efficiency retrofit happened in nearby Plainfield. A small public school built in the 1980s was scrutinized by an efficiency expert. Then the town went to work. When all was said and done, the school’s energy usage dropped by 80 percent.
Solar energy and battery storage will be prominent components of Keene’s renewable energy future. Keene’s installed solar capacity is 1,340 KW, with another 738 KW in the queue. Prof. Tom Webler and his students at Keene State have demonstrated the potential of a massive solar build-out. Big box rooftops and parking lot arrays should be the top priority. Household systems are blossoming like mushrooms. The battery component will fall into place as costs continue to descend. Australia recently installed a 129 megawatt-hour Tesla battery that’s paid back a third of its cost in a year.
Let’s put Keene on the map again by being a leader in the essential step of becoming carbon neutral and 100 percent renewable.
ROBERT E. KING
President, Ashuelot River Hydro
42 Hurricane Road