Sunday, August 2, 2009

Draft for ViewPoint Article

I enjoy thinking about energy efficiency and conservation.  I got interested while I was an electrical engineering student at UNH back in the 70s.  Between my junior and senior years, I wrote a proposal for and received funding to hire twelve of my fellow women engineering students to conduct energy audits at twelve NH colleges; members of a consortium of college plant managers.  We named the summer program “The Women in Engineering, Energy Management Project.”  The goal of the project was two-fold: 1.) Give women engineering students a summer engineering work experience, and 2.) Assist NH colleges in reducing energy consumption.  It was a great experience and measurably successful for the colleges.

Although I never actually worked in the energy industry, my inclination toward reducing power consumption was an important factor later in my career when I worked in notebook computer design for Wang Laboratories. I specialized in low-power circuit design and my team’s work led to a couple of design patents in that area. I know it sounds geeky…and it probably is, but I just love the challenge of doing more with less.

Last summer while visiting my brother in Hull, MA, I was awestruck by the sight of the Hull Wind I and Hull Wind II turbines.  My brother tells me that their home electric bill has been cut nearly in half.  Of course, Hull has a unique situation; ocean breezes and a municipal electric company make large turbine projects very cost effective.  Rindge does not have the same advantages, but is it possible that we could develop a project that would make economic sense and also help the environment?

Pat Barry, Rindge Selectman, told me about a potential wind project at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge.  I contacted FPU and, in response, Ken Clarke, an adjunct professor there, helped me with some basic facts and information about evaluating the potential for wind energy in Rindge.

One of the things that Ken educated me on was the necessity of Meteorological
wind towers (MET towers) for evaluating a potential site.  In the simplest terms, MET towers are very tall (more than 50 feet high) poles with wind measuring and communications equipment mounted at the top. I was shocked to learn that a MET tower and data measurement for a year can cost $20,000 per location!

By doing a little online research, I learned that Maine, Vermont, and Massachusetts all have MET tower loan programs through their state colleges.  New Hampshire does not.

I took it upon myself to contact my alma mater, UNH, to see if there was any interest in starting a loan program in NH too.

Well, who should write me back, but Jacob Aho of New Ipswich, President and Founder of the UNH Energy Club, and a graduate student in Electrical Engineering whose thesis project is wind turbine control systems!

I am so excited to know that there are young engineers out there who plan to dedicate their careers to moving us toward energy independence!  Jacob and I have only been talking since April, but he has kindly offered to take time from his busy schedule to present a forum on wind energy, to be held Thursday at 6:30 P.M. at the Rindge Recreation Building.  Jacob also enlisted the support of Dr. Rob Wills, a Professional Engineer from Temple, and owner of, to help us understand options for homeowners too. 

Rindge may be a tough town to sell on conservation or alternative energy projects.  A motion on the ballot to establish an energy committee in Rindge was defeated last year.  I imagine that there was a perception that such a committee would impose new regulations and cost the taxpayers money.  I'm hoping that we can build grassroots support for a volunteer energy committee by offering great information and workshops that will help people reduce their energy bills.  In any case, I feel as though we need to try.

I work full-time, so I can’t make a big commitment of time. However, I don’t see that as a problem. I think, like so many other things, if everyone does just a little bit to help, the sum of those efforts can lead to wonderful things for the community.

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