A guide to living local in New Hampshire

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Hitting All The Right Notes

By Beth Lamontagne Hall / Fiddlehead Contributing Writer

The Tupelo Music Hall’s motto is “It’s all about the music,” but at this Derry entertainment venue, the mission goes far beyond that.

The popular music venue chooses to run sustainably - serving drinks in compostable cups, choosing energy-efficient kitchen appliances, recycling about a third of its waste and recently installing a 313-panel rooftop solar array. It’s the first music venue in New England to go 100 percent solar.

Owner Scott Hayward said installing solar panels was something he’s wanted to do since the venue, which stages live music, comedy and theatrical performances, relocated from Londonderry to a larger space in Derry and now includes a full bar and food menu. That brought the music hall’s capacity from 200 to nearly 700.

Hayward said it was a way to actively address climate change by using cleaner energy sources.

“It’s keeping with our business practice. We’ve invested a lot in the sound system and the quality of the performances, and we try to do things the right way. This is just a piece of that,” he said.

The solar array was installed by ReVision Energy, which it estimates will generate 114,000 kilowatt hours per year. This amount of clean energy will cut more than 120,000 pounds of carbon pollution annually and is forecast to save Tupelo more than $750,000 in electric costs over the life of the system.

“Most companies aren’t in the clean energy business, so what we find is that they need, and Tupelo is an example of this, a simple turnkey solution,” said Dan Weeks, director of market development at ReVision Energy.

The company each year works with hundreds of businesses, nonprofits and home owners, assisting them throughout the installation process, from start to finish, including planning, permitting and connecting to the electric grid.

“What we try to bring to each company we work with is a proposal for what type of system they can work with to generate as much clean energy as possible,” Weeks said.

Running a music hall, especially one that serves food and drinks, is an energy-intensive business. From the performers’ equipment and lights for the stage to behind-the-scenes items like kitchen appliances and heating and air conditioning, a lot of electricity is needed to keep the shows going, even with investments in efficient equipment.

Despite these high energy demands, Hayward said the music hall will conservatively produce enough power from the solar array to offset all the venue’s power use for the year, saving a significant amount of energy and money.

Hayward hopes the solar installation on Tupelo Music Hall will also inspire other companies to invest in solar and said that he’s already spoken to other local businesses who are interested in learning more about his experience.

He has also seen positive feedback from the music hall’s clientele. After announcing the installation through Tupelo’s 25,000-person email list, Hayward saw the community rally behind the decision to become more sustainable.

“There was a lot of reassuring feedback that people were very happy to see us do this,” said Hayward. “Most of it was people saying, ‘This is why we do business with you.’”