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We’re an informal group of people in north-central Massachusetts who are concerned about issues relating to energy use. More...

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Every year North Quabbin Energy gathers together presenters on various topics related to Renewable Energy and Local Living. This year the festival will take place on Sept. 24th & 25th at Forster’s Farm, Chestnut Hill Rd, Orange MA. Here is the line-up for 2016:

SATURDAY, Sept 24th

 12:00 - Beekeeping – Sharing your property with Pollinators

Angela Roell, Yardbirds Farm

1:00 - Tiny Houses – Fair and 190 Square (feet!)

Sarah Hastings, rhizhome.com

Tiny homes should be an accessible and logical housing solution for young adults, senior citizens, or anyone who wants to live a light lifestyle.  Plenty of design guides and inspirational images already exist for tiny house dreamers out there, but there are still many other planning considerations to account for.  Learn about the side of the Tiny House Movement that HGTV does not cover: the legalities!

Join Sarah for a talk about the big advantages in tiny housing.  She will guide you through some lesser known steps that will aid in attaining a fair place for a tiny home, whether it might be on farmland, in a backyard, or on an abandoned lot.
Sarah is the co-coordinator of the Legalize Tiny project at Harvard’s Millennial Housing Lab.  She designed and built her own tiny home in college and has experienced the trials and triumphs that come with any pioneering movement.  Her experience with tiny home advocacy has given her credential to work with planners and officials from a variety of towns and cities that want to create diversified housing opportunity.

2:00 - Renewables Are Ready

Pat Hynes, Traprock Center for Peace & Justice

This will be a deeply informing and compelling slide presentation developed in response to the defining issue of our times – climate change.  Our goals are to inform about the advances in renewable energy technologies and their potential, together with efficiency, to power our country by 2050 and to identify the political obstacles in getting there. We finish with inspiring examples of action and activism that serve as a springboard for brainstorming about individual and community actions to make renewables our energy future. Solar and wind keep the peace.

Pat Hynes is a former environmental engineer and Professor of Environmental Health.  In 1980, she designed one of the first passive solar houses in western Massachusetts; dozens of houses were built based on her design.  She directs the Traprock Center for Peace and Justice (http://traprock.org). The Renewables Are Ready presentation was developed collaboratively with Nuclear-and Carbon-Free Future and the American Friends Service Committee of western Massachusetts.

 3:00 - Solar PV: No up front cost and you own it!

Claire Chang, Solar Store of Greenfield  & Bob Michaud, Orange Energy Committee

Claire will go over the basics for considering whether a solar photo-voltaic (PV) system works best on your house roof or pole mounted nearby, as well as the process for interconnection to the grid. If your house or property has sun from 9-3pm everyday, you can take advantage of the MA Clean Energy Center Solar Loan Program with no money down to finance your solar PV project. She’ll also go over the loan timeline and the financial incentives for no up-front cost solar. Everyone with a sunny roof or yard can participate in the renewable energy revolution!

Bob Michaud will explain the process and the reasons behind he and his wife Diane’s decision to invest in a home solar PV system. Using photographs, he’ll show the problems with their site that had always held them back from investing, and how it turned out that those were not very big problems after all. Using a simplified break-even analysis, Bob will show how the current prices and incentives as well as their particular situation combined to make their decision an easy one. They went solar and they’re very glad they did!

Claire Chang and John Ward have been co-owners of the Solar Store of Greenfield from 2008 to the present. They are a brick and mortar store providing a local global prospective on how to reduce our carbon footprint on the planet. Turnkey contracts for Solar PV and Hot Water systems, including energy efficiency measures, are just some of what they offer. Additionally, they are involved in town governance, anti nuclear activities, and state legislative initiatives through MassSolar (solarisworking.org) to promote good solar policy.

Bob Michaud was an environmental engineer in his 20s. He and his wife moved to Orange in 1979 to become farmers, where for 21 years they and owned and operated Maple Valley Farm in North Orange. Later in life, Bob was a high school Math teacher. Now retired (sort of), Bob and Diane volunteer with the Orange ad hoc Energy Committee and grow and sell seedlings from their greenhouse.


12:00 – For the Love of Heirloom Cucurbits

Daniel Botkin, Laughing Dog Farm

Daniel will show off a colorful selection of locally-grown cucurbits and share his passion for collecting, cultivating, saving seed from (and cooking!) “heritage” variety hard squashes from around the world. Dan will share alternative propagation tactics for raising these long-season vine crops in our now more variable New England “climate”. Cooked samples will be available for tasting as well as heirloom seeds for next year’s gardens.
Daniel is a permaculture-inspired, four-season farmer, goat herder and teacher on Laughing Dog Farm, in Gill, MA

1:00 - A Solar “Energy Island” Home from the 1790s – Case Study

Residential solar energy applications for you to consider and explore.

Hughes Pack, Current resident and STEM Solar Lab project Curriculum Director

The house – The renovation of this 200 year old cape included moving it to a new insulated foundation, installing a new high efficiency propane heating system, replacing the windows and doors, adding insulation, Window Quilts, interior thermo-pane window inserts, a hot air system, a heat recovery ventilator, installing several PV arrays and a solar hot water system. The overall energy consumption was reduced by over 50%. Foam insulation was added to the exterior to further decrease the heat loss. Our PV array is now up to 5.4 kW which supplies all of the electricity to run the house as well the electricity to heat and cool the house with a mini split heat pump.

The home owner- Hughes recently retired from 37 years of teaching astronomy and physics at a local school. Along with his love of all things in the sky above Hughes has always been infatuated with electricity. About five years ago he became involved with an educational solar electrical energy project called the STEM Solar Lab and is now transitioning to a new career of promoting solar energy education on a couple of fronts. Hughes has also always loved sunshine, but his recent purchase of and life in this “deep-energy” retrofit home has been truly inspirational for him. Every sunny day, he continues to learn and appreciate how remarkable the energy from the sun really is and how many ways we can harness it for our own use. As a result of this very personal experience, he feels compelled to share this adventure with others so that they too might “see the light” and learn new ways use it to live, save money, reduce their carbon footprint, increase individual and family comfort and become more independent.

2:00 - Regenerative Agriculture in the Quabbin region & Greater Northeast

Tyson Neukirch, The Farm School

In an effort to increase ecological and economic diversity and resilience, Tyson’s current work revolves around rethinking how we utilize agricultural landscapes in this region, both lands that are currently in agricultural production as well as those that once were or have the capacity to be in the future. He uses the term regenerative (instead of sustainable) because it emphasizes the capacity of agriculture/agricultural systems to augment the capacity of a site in terms of soil health, carbon sequestration, water quality,  and ecological diversity as opposed to a force of ecological degradation, which it has been over 12,000 year arc of agricultural history. Farmers, back-yard gardeners, and just about anyone who cares about being a “good steward of the land” will be inspired by his talk.

For the past 5 years Tyson has managed the commercial vegetable production at The Farm School in Athol as part the Learn to Farm Program, their year-long vocational training program for adults. His current work at The Farm School is focused on whole farm design/planning for the 460 acres owned and stewarded by The Farm School. In addition, his family owns a 106-acre property in Petersham, where they are (slowly) starting their own farm centered around regenerative farming practices. Prior to moving to Massachusetts, Tyson farmed in Nebraska, California, and Oregon.

3:00 - The Nolumbeka Project - Preserving New England’s Tribal Heritage

Joe Graveline, the Nolumbeka Project

A look at 10,000 years of sustainable stewardship and respect in the Middle Connecticut River Valley and what brought it to an end.

This talk will address the challenges of what a sustainable way of life looked liked over the millennia to the first peoples here in our region, and compare that to the challenges that our modern lifestyles have inflicted on the natural environment and resources here and now. How might we take the knowledge and wisdom from the first peoples to alter our ways of living to bring healing to the Earth Mother whom we often take for granted?

Joe Graveline is President and co-founder of the Nolumbeka Project.  Joe is a public speaker, long time musician and cultural and environmental preservationist. Over the last 15 years Joe has partnered with other researchers including Nolumbeka’s anthropologist and historic researcher Howard Clark and writer and researcher David Brule to start to uncover the ancient stories hidden in the hills and valleys here in the Middle Connecticut River valley. Joe has looked at long ignored State cultural preservation laws and has spoken publically about asking for accountability to those and other important laws in supporting the work of the Nolumbeka’s and other environmental preservations organizations efforts to protect this jewel we call home here in the Connecticut River Valley.