The Caledonian-Record Is Going Solar

Source: The Caledonian-Record

St. JOHNSBURY -- Oct. 21, 2021 -- The Caledonian-Record is dramatically reducing its carbon footprint.

This week the 185-year-old newspaper began construction on a 90-panel solar array estimated to yield 40 kWh of power per year. The project, through SunCommon, is expected to take two weeks and come online shortly thereafter.

The step toward energy independence began last year when Publisher Todd Smith saw a SunCommon ad for solar incentives on the website. That led to contact with Carrie Fenn who explained the environmental benefits and financial incentives of going solar. Smith signed a contract with SunCommon the next day.

“We didn’t need much convincing, but Carrie did a great job walking us through the process,” Smith said. “It had to make financial sense, and she showed us that it could.”

The sun was brightly shining Tuesday afternoon with temperatures in the mid-60s as Andrew Wiggett and his crew of two prepared the roof of the Caledonian’s main office building at 190 Federal St. The newspaper, which has been owned and operated by four generations of Smiths dating back to 1919, built and began operating at the Federal Street location in 1949.

Wiggett, who is a subcontractor for SunCommon on the project, said it’s a good location for rooftop solar.

“It’s awesome. The orientation isn’t perfect, but it’s close,” he said. “It’s going to be a real clean install.”

The power that will be generated by the array far exceeds the paper’s modest need. That sparked the paper’s interest to explore other efficiency measures.

Smith pulled out an old quote he had for a major heat pump upgrade to the paper’s heating system. As a straight-up investment, Smith always thought the payback arc was too long. Coupled with the excess solar power and incentives from Efficiency Vermont, it became a no-brainer.

In total, the newspaper is investing approximately $150,000 on the solar and heat-pump projects. The Caledonian-Record is partnered with ARC Mechanical in Bradford for a pair of cold-climate outdoor heat-pump units with air-handling units and hydronic coils to allow for low-energy, year-round heating and cooling of the paper’s St. Johnsbury headquarters.

Cathy Reynolds, senior account manager at Efficiency Vermont, helped the Caledonian secure a significant source of funding. She said the funding was only available for a limited time, and the newspaper’s heat pump project is a good use of the money.

“This project is a great example of the goal Efficiency Vermont had in offering this limited-time, 90% incentive in partnership with RDCs (Regional Development Corporations) around the state: To help businesses impacted by the pandemic move forward with important energy efficiency projects that otherwise would have stalled,” said Reynolds in an email. “We expect the staff at the Caledonian Record will find what many other Vermonters have found; that in addition to lower heating costs heat pumps also improve comfort and air quality.”

The EV funding combined with solar credits reduce the paper’s out-of-pocket liability by almost half.

The project also expects to nearly eliminate $30,000 a year in annual power and electricity bills and will participate in the state’s net-metering program to feed excess power back to Green Mountain Power for solar credits.

“Now if we can convince approximately 6,000 daily newspaper customers to convert to digital subscriptions, then we can reduce our carbon footprint to zero,” Smith said. “That will be a good local news story.”