Lowell Wastewater Project a Model of Sustainability
Four More MassEnergyInsight Users Gain A+ Rating
Seven New Green Communities Named in Sixth Round of Designations
DOER Awards 21 Owner’s Agent Grants
Green Communities Grants at Work – Four-Region Roundup of Projects
For many people, the words “clean” and “green” don’t conjure up thoughts of sewage treatment. But those familiar with recent activities and accomplishments at the Lowell Regional Wastewater Utility know otherwise. Featured in December’s Treatment Plant Operator, a national trade publication, the Lowell facility boasts an array of clean energy and environmentally-friendly features that are yielding greater reliability and cost savings, thanks to a $22 million investment that included over $4.6 million in federal Recovery Act funds. Serving a population of 180,000 in Lowell and surrounding communities, the facility has improved its aeration system, installed two solar photovoltaic arrays totaling 48 kilowatts, and installed green roofs and pervious asphalt and concrete to reduce runoff.
These projects demonstrate the efforts of both City Manager Bernie Lynch and Lowell Regional Wastewater Utility Executive Director Mark Young to cultivate a culture of sustainability in Lowell. Consistent with other sustainability investments - including a $21.1 million energy performance contract with Ameresco that is expected to save the city $1.5 million annually in energy costs over 20 years, improvements at the Lowell Regional Wastewater Utility are projected to produce electricity cost savings of over $75,000 annually.
Belchertown, Easthampton, Hamilton and Palmer have joined the ranks of the Commonwealth’s MassEnergyInsight A+ users – defined as municipalities that are using this free online energy tracking tool and have at least 90 percent of their:
- accounts assigned to specific facilities
- buildings entered with square footage data
- facilities classified with categories and subcategories.
Created in 2010, MEI works by assigning account numbers to a municipality’s or public water/wastewater district’s buildings or other facilities such as pumping stations, streetlights or vehicles. MEI then loads usage and cost data related to those accounts directly from electric and gas utilities, without requiring data entry by the municipal user. Other energy data (such as oil, propone, gasoline and diesel usage and cost, competitive supply cost and renewable energy generation) do require entry into MEI by the user. MEI has reports that allow municipalities to compare energy use, costs and associated greenhouse gas emissions across years for all municipal operations, by department, or for individual facilities. There are 226 municipalities, representing 77 percent of the state’s population, currently signed up to use MEI. Including the four new additions, MEI A+ users are:
Agawam, Arlington, Becket, Belchertown, Beverly, Bridgewater, Cambridge, Concord, Dedham, Duxbury, Easthampton, Easton, Egremont, Great Barrington, Hamilton, Harvard, Huntington, Lakeville, Lancaster, Leverett, Medford, Medway, Milton, New Marlborough, New Salem, Newton, Norfolk, Northampton, Palmer, Plympton, Tewksbury, Topsfield, Truro, Tyringham, and Woburn. To add your city, town or regional district to the list, visit your "Setup Completeness Dashboard" in MEI today.
DOER designated seven new Green Communities in December, bringing to 110 the number of Massachusetts cities and towns committed to five clean energy leadership criteria spelled out in the Green Communities Act.
With addition of Petersham, Rockland, Wendell, Westminster, Westwood, Whately and Winthrop, nearly half of Massachusetts residents ─ 45.2 percent ─ now live in a Green Community. By choosing to earn Green Community status, these 110 cities and towns have qualified for approximately $24 million in Green Communities grants since DOER launched the designation and grant program in 2010. The state’s Green Communities have also committed to reduce their municipal energy use by 20 percent over five years – a commitment equivalent to the annual energy consumption of over 13,600 homes, which, in greenhouse gas reduction terms, equates to taking nearly 31,000 cars off the road.
In February, 21 cities, towns, and other municipal entities received Owner’s Agent Technical Assistance grants of up to $12,500 each. The Green Communities Division awarded a total of $252,840 to assist a range of local projects including solar PV systems, energy management services, ASHRAE Level 2 audits in oil- or propane-heated buildings, and engineering studies for more efficient heating systems or conversion to renewable or alternative fuel-sourced heating.
Grant recipients include: Falmouth, Gill, Medford, Melrose, Merrimac, Methuen, Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School, North Andover, Otis, Pepperell, Petersham, Sherborn, South Essex Sewerage District, Springfield, Sudbury, Sunderland, Wayland, Westborough, West Newbury, Weston, and Upper Blackstone Water Pollution Abatement District.
The Division plans to offer another round of Owner’s Agent Technical Assistance grants later this year.
- Western Region – Chesterfield Efficiency Seekers Get a Leg Up
- Southeast Region – Easton Gymnasium an Energy Savings Slam Dunk
- Northeast Region – Cycling Success in Salem
- Central Region – Millbury Taps Utility Incentives for Efficiency Project
When it comes to cutting heating bills, every little bit helps. Chesterfield residents are getting more than a little help from their municipality this year, thanks to an innovative local program funded through the town’s 2011 Green Communities grant. Some $55,000 of the town’s $140,000 grant is funding the Chesterfield Residential Energy Efficiency Program, which has received 24 applications for measures such as exterior door replacement, pipe insulation, and window curtains since it launched with a series of information sessions in November. One project has already been completed and reimbursed.
Developed by the Chesterfield Green Communities Committee in conjunction with the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, the Hilltown Community Development Corporation and Western Massachusetts Electric Company (WMECO), the Chesterfield Residential Energy Efficiency Program adds value to incentives already offered through WMECO’s MassSave program. As is the case statewide, following a MassSave home energy assessment, the local utility (through MassSave) reimburses homeowners for 75 percent of assessment recommendations up to $2,000. Chesterfield residents are now incentivized to make further efficiency improvements through the town’s reimbursement of up to $1,000 in additional costs – for total potential savings of $3,000 on efficiency and weatherization measures.
Energy Committee Chair Joe Gazillo said Chesterfield residents are motivated to participate in the program for reasons related to both saving money and protecting the environment.
“The goal of the Commonwealth’s Green Communities program is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and cut our carbon footprint. In a community like ours, where most homes are heated with oil, this is done most effectively at the household level,” he said. “This program is protecting the environment and saving money, and it helps people to feel better about their community.”
Over 40 people attended the program information sessions last fall, and the town is planning additional sessions to introduce more residents to the program later this winter and in the spring.
Following its December 2010 designation as a Green Community, the town of Easton began work on five Green Communities grant-approved energy efficiency projects, including upgrading the gymnasium lighting systems in the Oliver Ames High School – a project that included replacing 66 320-watt fixtures with efficient T5 lighting and upgrading existing sensors.
A collaborative effort between town Department of Public Works staff and the School Department and completed during the 2011 winter break, the Oliver Ames High School gymnasium lighting project is estimated to save over 35,200 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity and cut the school’s electricity bill by approximately $6,000 per year, according to Northern Energy Services, National Grid’s small business vendor. The payback period for the project is approximately four years.
While the town is unable to track the energy reduction from the lights alone, the school overall has seen a nearly 10 percent reduction in energy usage – from 2,212,500 kWh in 2010 to 1,992,000 kWh in 2012.
In completing the project, the town of Easton took advantage of $12,540 in cost savings through National Grid incentives, as well as a no-cost energy assessment of the high school. After application of $8,580 in Green Communities grant funds, the final project cost is being charged to the School Department at no interest.
“Because the gymnasiums are among the largest of facilities, Easton can expect substantial savings in energy use and associated costs as a result of this project,” said David Twombly, Easton’s Director of School Operations. “This will significantly help Easton fulfill its Green Community commitment to reduce its energy use by 20 percent over five years.”
Salem Spins, an urban bike sharing program funded in part with Salem’s Green Communities designation grant, racked up nearly 1,000 “rentals” during its first full season of operation from April – November 2012. Assisted with $22,500 from Salem’s 2010 Green Communities grant, the program enables city residents, visitors and students to avoid motorized traffic and parking woes by checking out bicycles at two hubs – the Hawthorne Hotel in downtown Salem and at Salem State College. Ten hybrid bikes are parked at each location and available for use by those aged 18 and up. Operated with cooperation and support from Mayor Kim Driscoll’s office, the Hawthorne Hotel, Salem State College, and several city agencies, Salem Spins was “well received” during its inaugural year, and will start up again this spring, said Salem Energy and Sustainability Manager Jeffrey Elie. Salem Spins patrons receive a bike path brochure indicating local roads with shared lanes for bikes.
“A lot of the users were people staying at the hotel. Parking is a pretty big challenge, especially during the Halloween holiday season. During September and October, we saw an increased surge,” Elie said, adding, “I definitely think convenience and not having to drive at Salem State was a big, big thing for students. Parking is an issue there as well.”
Elie said plans for improvements for the 2013 season of Salem Spins include exploring a more streamlined rental process and a more protective downtown bike shelter, and development of a more aggressive marketing campaign that includes a dedicated website and greater presence on Facebook and Twitter. The city is also looking into expanding the program with additional bike racks in other Salem locations.
The town of Millbury leveraged $11,530 of its 2011 Green Communities grant for more than twice that amount in utility rebates in order to complete a $38,434 energy efficiency project at its Municipal Office Building. Estimated to save 36,488 kilowatt hours of electricity annually and over $4,050 in municipal energy costs annually, the project involved upgrading the building’s interior and exterior lighting and the addition of a soda vending machine miser.
Completed last summer, the Millbury’s project replaced existing fluorescent lighting with high performance T8 and T5 lamps and converted the building’s rear parking lot and driveway lights to LEDs. In addition to saving the town money, the more efficient lighting will yield estimated greenhouse gas emissions savings of nearly 39,600 pounds – an impact roughly equivalent to taking four cars off the road.
"Because the Municipal Office Building is an inefficient building and it is visited by most Millbury residents and businesses, the Energy Advisory Committee decided to focus many of our energy conservation measures there. We are grateful that National Grid and the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources saw fit to finance this project,” said Laurie Connors, who is Millbury's Town Planner as well as Chairman of the Energy Advisory Committee. “ It is unlikely that the town of Millbury would have been able to make such a large initial investment, particularly when considering the high cost of LED lights. We are hoping that the long-term cost savings realized through the lighting upgrade project will inspire the citizenry to support the use of town funds to make similar investments. Not only is it the right thing to do for the environment, but it saves the town a good deal of money over time."