Following the success of a three-year energy conservation project at the neighboring Plainfield Elementary School, officials at the Cornish Elementary School took a hard look at the little school that is home to 95 students.

“For a smaller footprint in Cornish, we were spending three times as much on energy costs as we did in Plainfield,” recalled Beth Bierwirth, Business Manager of the joint partnership of SAUs that oversee operations at both schools.

That realization was the start of a concerted effort to get the Cornish school’s energy costs under control. The timing of the project was right, Bierwirth said, matching the start of the town’s “Go Green” initiative. With energy conservation on the minds of town and school officials alike, “we started exploring every avenue where we can create energy savings,” Bierwirth said.

The school found a partner in New Hampshire Electric Co-op (NHEC), which started work with the school in 2016 on a replacement of outdoor lighting with highly-efficient LED lights. With a total project cost of $6,650, an NHEC incentive of $3,325 and annual energy savings of $1,150, the LED project will pay for itself by the end of this year.

A project underway at the school this year has much bigger goals, and a bigger price tag – $61,000 to replace indoor T8 fluorescent lighting with LEDs. To fund the project, the school turned to NHEC’s SmartSTART® program, which is providing a 6.5 year loan that is being paid back by the energy savings alone.

SmartSTART (Savings Through Affordable Retrofit Technologies) is an innovative financing tool that removes the upfront cost of energy efficiency improvements, allows the loan to be paid off by the energy cost savings of the installed measures, and even provides some positive cash flow during the payback period.

“It really made it easy to sell to our school board,” Bierwirth noted.

The project numbers speak for themselves:

  • $60,925 project cost
  • $30,000 NHEC Incentive
  • $30,925 net cost
  • $7,320 annual energy savings
  • $1,824 annual positive cash flow after loan payment
  • 5 year loan


To learn more about NHEC’s Smart START program, visit our website, or contact Program Administrator Joe Lajewski at, or (603) 536-8663.