Glen House and Howie Wemyss Take Initiative on Hospitality Energy Projects
Emily Roscoe, Clean Energy NH’s North Country Weatherize Coordinator, interviewed Howie Wemyss to discuss the energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements to the Glen House and Lodge, located in Gorham, NH. The Glen House has been owned by the Libby family for over 100 years. Wemyss was the Mt. Washington Autoroad and Great Glen Trails General Manager, and had been involved from the beginning in the project to reopen the Glen House in 2018. The Libby family and Wemyss incorporated energy efficiency improvements knowing that smart energy investments would save the Lodge and Glen House money.
What are some of the energy projects completed at the Lodge and Glen House?
The first example is an upgrade to the existing hydropower facility that services the lodge, completed 8-9 years ago. The hydrosystem dates back to the 1800s, and Wemyss chose to keep the system to generate electricity. It generated 10 kilowatts (kW) which covered 80 percent of energy needs at the time. To reduce electricity usage, all of the lights were converted to LEDs and the pump motors were upgraded to variable frequency drives. Wemyss was uncomfortable with fuel oil for heating the Lodge, which prompted him to install 2 pellet boilers, the primary source for heat and hot water, along with pellet storage. The Lodge also has 4 electric vehicle charging stations. The energy efficiency upgrades that have been done at the Lodge has made financial and environmental sense.
The Libby family decided to reconstruct the historic Glen House in 2015. The hotel construction started in 2016, with Wemyss working closely with the family, wanting to make sure it was built with high standards of sustainability. They decided to put in geothermal for heating and cooling, even with the additional upfront costs because the longer view on return on investments made financial sense. For additional energy efficiency measures, LEDs were installed throughout.
The project design captures the water coming down the mountain which feeds the hydropower generator for the lodge, and a second 17 kW hydropower generator for the hotel. They tapped the same water system for gravity fed landscape irrigation so the mountain water irrigates the land. Wemyss is also cognizant of a possible future solar array for the hotel but decided to open the hotel using the hydropower system. Once enough data has been collected on the additional energy needs of the hotel, Wemyss will evaluate installing solar for additional energy requirements.
What elements made this project a success?
Wemyss noted that developing and utilizing the hydropower systems already in place made sense both in a historic sense and a business sense with financial savings and local resource use. Starting with smaller projects, such as the hydroelectric renovations and pellet boiler system for the Lodge helped demonstrate the financial and environmental benefits of energy upgrades to the other parties involved in building the Glen House. The hydroelectric renovation in the Lodge had a 5.5 year payback. Buying local pellets rather than oil was a way to invest in the local economy.
What were the main challenges for these projects?
One of the main challenges was becoming familiar with all of the opportunities and details associated with grant and incentive programs for energy work.
North Country businesses can reach out to Clean Energy NH North Country staff Melissa (Melissa@cleanenergynh.org) or Emily (Emily@cleanenergynh.org) for resources and information on opportunities for energy projects.
What were the financial results?
Wemyss predicts that the hydropower system is providing approximately 30% of the electricity for Glen House. The hydroelectric system in the Lodge had a 5.5 year payback, with the system in the Glen House having close to around a 9 year payback. A USDA Rural Energy for America Program Grant for the Lodge covered close to 30% of the cost of the first pellet boiler that was installed in the lodge.
Advice for other businesses similar to Glen House interested in looking into energy projects?
Everyone should be looking at solar to see if that makes sense for their business. Also, there are a lot of places in the North Country that are probably in the position of looking at micro hydropower. It runs 24/7, and up here there are a lot of small waterways that could support micro hydropower. Also, that small projects can have a large impact when they are done with a focus on local economies and sustainability.