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Claremont Eyes Alternate Heat

City Council OKs Negotiations For Pilot Loop to Warm Buildings

Claremont — The City Council took the first step last night that could lead to the creation of an alternative energy system to heat downtown commercial buildings at what backers say would be a significantly lower cost.

The council voted 9-0 to authorize the city manager to enter into negotiations with Hot Zero LLC, of New Hampshire, for right-of-ways to install about 1,200 feet of pipe under the city’s sidewalks for the privately-owned company’s pilot system. The city manager will also negotiate a licensing agreement for the installation of equipment in city-owned buildings. Any agreements must be brought back to the council for approval.

Hot Zero’s founders, Dick Henry, currently with energy consultant Jordan Institute in Concord, and Mike Jesanis, presented their business plan to the council, emphasizing that the city has no financial obligation with the project.

The concept, as explained by Henry, would use excess or waste heat to generate hot water from one or more sources that is distributed along pipes to different buildings in close proximity. Each building would have heat exchangers to transfer the heat from the district loop to the building’s pipes for heating or domestic hot water. Once used, the water would be returned in an alternate pipe back to the source.

“This is a very effective way of heating buildings,” Henry said. “When you run commercial buildings as one unit, you can save 20 percent on energy.”

Jesanis said the energy savings target is critical to persuading building owners to connect.

“We won’t be successful unless building owners save at least 20 percent,” he said. “We are looking at delivering significant heating cost reductions for buildings in Claremont.”

For the pilot loop, which Henry said they hope to have operational before next winter, Hot Zero is looking at connecting several buildings around Opera House Square including City Hall, the Farwell Block, Brown Block, Union Block, the Moody Building and the fire station.

The council approval last night gave the green light for the city to negotiate an agreement to place the pipes under the sidewalks and put equipment in city hall.

In New Hampshire, 181 communities, including Claremont, do not have access to natural gas, Henry said, noting that oil is four times more expensive right now.

“You have a distinct economic disadvantage to those communities with natural gas,” Henry said.

Manufacturer APC Paper, not far from downtown, was mentioned as once source with “waste heat.” Henry said they are still working on identifying heat sources and talking to building owners about being part of the loop.

“Claremont is rich in waste heat sources,” he said. Wood and biomass plants are also possible sources.

Because of their material and insulating qualities, the pipes need be only 2 feet below the surface, Henry said.

“There is very little heat loss with the pipes.”

On Tuesday, with city officials in attendance in Concord, Gov. Maggie Hassan signed into law SB-74 that exempts hot water district energy systems from Public Utilities Commission regulation, similar to oil, propane and kerosene. Users of the district system will still have the option to revert to their former heating system if the price is lower.

“District energy systems are not a monopoly but compete on a level playing field with other unregulated fuels such as propane, oil, kerosene and wood,” stated a newsletter from the Jordan Institute in Concord, which focuses on reducing energy use in buildings.

Henry said district energy systems are common in Europe. In Sweden, the technology has cut oil consumption from 80 percent to 20 percent between 1981 and 2010.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to move to a more stable form of heat,” Henry said.

City Manager Guy Santagate said if the system cuts the cost of operating a building, it would help the city.

He said commercial properties prices are attractive but operational costs are high.

“This is a possible game changer on the economic front for the city,” he said.

If the pilot proves successful, Henry said they would plan on incremental growth the next 10 to 20 years to other parts of the city with additional loops or “islands” of buildings.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at ogrady56@yahoo.com.