- Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection
Media Contact for Baker-Polito Administration Announces $5 Million Funding Opportunity to Help Utilities Invest in Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency
Edmund Coletta, MassDEP – Director of Public Affairs
NORTH ANDOVER — In an event to conclude its celebration of Climate Week in Massachusetts, the Baker-Polito Administration today visited the Greater Lawrence Sanitary District (GLSD) to announce a new $5 million funding opportunity to help utility companies invest in clean energy and energy efficiency projects. The funding, available through the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s GAP Program, was announced by Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides and MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg during an event in which they highlighted a clean energy project, which received more than $35 million in financial support from multiple state agencies, that has made GLSD’s wastewater treatment facility a net zero operation.
“The intense rainfall we’ve experienced in recent months highlights the threat to public health and the environment caused by climate change, which is why we need to support our water utilities by helping them upgrade their infrastructure and make investments in clean energy solutions,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Our Administration has proposed a plan to direct $400 million in American Rescue Plan funds to modernize our outdated and aging water infrastructure across the Commonwealth to assist with projects like this one.”
“Climate change is threatening our communities and our natural resources, and we need to support innovative climate solutions,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “The Greater Lawrence Sanitary District facility is the model for a resilient future, producing its own energy, operating independently during any power crisis while protecting our environment and the public health.”
The Administration will make available $5 million through round three of MassDEP’s GAP program, which has awarded $5.7 million in funding to facilities like GLSD. The grant program “fills the gap” by leveraging incentives from energy utilities and other funding sources to implement energy efficiency and clean energy generation projects.
GAP Rounds I and II helped 64 drinking water and wastewater treatment facilities increase operational efficiencies, while also saving more than $2.5 million in energy costs and producing a total of more than 24,000 megawatt-hours in electricity savings from efficiency and on-site renewable power generation and reducing carbon emissions by nearly 18,000 metric tons.
“A changing climate puts a strain on our aging water and sewer facilities and pump stations, requiring aggressive action to address the issue now,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides. “We are pleased to announce this new funding opportunity to help water utilities reduce energy use and lower costs through the adoption of clean energy solutions, and are proposing $400 million in funding to modernize water and sewer infrastructure throughout the Commonwealth as part of Governor Baker’s proposal to invest nearly $1 billion in critical environmental priorities through the Administration’s federal ARPA spending plan.”
The clean energy project at GLSD, with more than $35 million in state support as part of a multi-agency effort, features an organics-to-energy project that produces enough power to meet the plant’s own electrical needs. The organics-to-energy project takes food waste and organics diverted from the waste stream, pumps it into anaerobic digesters at GLSD’s main facility and, mixed with sewage sludge, produces a renewable fuel source, biogas, that makes the facility totally self-sufficient and no longer drawing from the electrical grid. Any surplus energy produced is exported and net-metered to offset energy costs at GLSD’s remote pumping station.
“The organics-to-energy capability also goes a step further. It includes the ability for ‘black-start’ and ‘islanding,’ which means if the electrical grid has a blackout, GLSD can disconnect from the gird and restart the engines to provide virtually uninterrupted operation of our treatment facility,” said GLSD Executive Director Cheri Cousens. “Ensuring stable and low-cost energy to the treatment facility is paramount during times of unpredictable power supply from outside sources.”
Since the upgrades have been implemented, GLSD receives close to 70,000 gallons of food waste and organics per day, resulting in a biogas production of nearly 1 million cubic feet per day. The combined heat-and-power system is producing approximately 64,000 kilowatt-hours per day – enough power to meet the demands of the treatment plant and the off-site Riverside Pumping Station. The heat produced is also used to warm the digesters and heat the buildings, reducing the District’s reliance on natural gas.
DOER estimates that the organics-to-energy project will reduce GLSD’s greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent, which is the equivalent of taking more than 1,000 cars off the road and fuel savings equivalent to filling 70,000 cars every year.
In addition to GAP Funding, the Commonwealth supported the project at GLSD through a State Revolving Fund (SRF) low-interest loan of $26.8 million, which also included loan principal forgiveness totaling nearly $1.6 million. The SRF program is chaired by the State Treasurer, with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) and the Executive Office of Administration and Finance as members.
“The Clean Water Trust worked in collaboration with the Greater Lawrence Sanitary District to ensure proper funding was available to launch this innovative project at a reduced cost to the rate payers,” said State Treasurer Deborah B. Goldberg, who oversees the Trust. “I applaud the district for implementing this cutting-edge technology that utilizes self-sufficient energy. It should serve as an example for green projects in other communities throughout the state.”
Additionally, the Community Clean Energy Resiliency Initiative from the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) also awarded GLSD several grants totaling $5 million to assist in the development of the “island-able” and “black-start” capable, self-sustaining wastewater treatment facility. This project supported a number of upgrades, including biogas metering and monitoring, gas collection and safety improvements, high-pressure transfer pumps, an outside organic waste acceptance and blending tank, two 1,550-kW combined heat and power units, electrical feeds from the main plant to the pump station, as well as the addition of a fourth anaerobic digester.
“The comprehensive effort at the Greater Lawrence Sanitary District illustrates how clean energy can be incorporated into critical infrastructure facilities that enhance reliability and contribute to our overall requirement of net-zero emissions by 2050,” said Department of Energy Resources Commissioner Patrick Woodcock. “DOER was pleased to support the reliability elements of this project that allows the project to be independent from the regional grid and also provides consistent clean energy production, especially during peak demand periods.”
GLSD’s organics-to-energy conversion resulted from MassDEP’s statewide ban on commercial food and organic materials in landfills or at waste incineration facilities, which was a requirement of the Commonwealth’s 2020 Solid Waste Master Plan and is proposed for expansion. During this period, MassDEP provided $500,000 to GLSD as part of its Sustainable Materials Recovery Program, which supports organics diversion. An additional $100,000 grant was awarded to Waste Management’s central organics recycling facility in Charlestown, which supplies GLSD with organics feedstock for direct injection into GLSD digestors.
As part of its Clean Energy Results Program, MassDEP and DOER awarded a $200,000 GAP Grant to GLSD for energy efficiency upgrades to the Riverside Pump Station, and MassDEP provided GLSD with an additional $2 million to support a back-up power generator after GLSD experienced power failures affecting the main plant and the pump station and as a result, were unable to accept, threat and discharge water following a heavy storm.
“The Greater Lawrence Sanitary District is working to protect its infrastructure from the effects of climate change, while addressing a wide spectrum of issues that includes renewable energy generation, resiliency, organics diversion initiatives and watershed protection,” said MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg. “GLSD’s organics-to-energy project and its other upgrades are a national model for sustainable infrastructure.”
The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) also provided $460,000 towards a technical study and design-and-construction, with the funding used for portions of the combined heat and power plant and the organics-to-energy project.
“GLSD’s organics-to-energy project is an example of innovation at work – employing creative solutions with significant environmental and renewable energy benefits.” said MassCEC Interim CEO Jennifer Daloisio. “MassCEC was proud to provide the early-stage grant money, which enabled GLSD to pursue this project on a critical facility.”
“Through its treatment of more than 10 billion gallons of wastewater annually in communities across the Merrimack Valley, the Greater Lawrence Sanitary District plays an integral role in preserving and protecting our majestic Merrimack River so it may be here for future generations to explore and enjoy,” said State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen). “Now more than ever, we are grateful to the GLSD team for their efforts to ensure residents and visitors alike have access to clean water. The GLSD is also to be celebrated for its commitment to green infrastructure and resiliency work, including their organics-to-energy project which makes the facility completely self-sufficient and in no need to draw from the electrical grid.”
“Greater Lawrence Sanitary District has proven that moving to a green energy infrastructure is beneficial in many ways,” said State Representative Tram T. Nguyen (D-Andover). “The wastewater treatment plant is now net-zero, and the plant’s energy self-sufficiency means that outages in the electric grid will no longer cause sewage discharges into the Merrimack River. It’s a win-win for all; by following GLSD’s example, we can move Massachusetts to a clean, green future.”
National Grid also provided to the GLSD subsidized fees, infrastructure improvements and technical assistance through the MassSave program in the amount of $688,209. GLSD operates a 52 million gallon per day wastewater treatment facility serving the cities of Lawrence and Methuen and the towns of Andover, North Andover and Dracut, MA, and Salem, N.H.
During this year’s Climate Week in Massachusetts, the Baker-Polito Administration is highlighting its commitment to reducing emissions, mitigating the impacts of climate change, and building a more resilient Commonwealth. Throughout Climate Week, the Administration is holding events to spotlight important initiatives including offshore wind, land protection and conservation, the Greening the Gateway Cities program, and the expansion of clean energy in the Commonwealth.
The Administration is also highlighting the urgent demand for funding to support climate resiliency in Massachusetts, and Governor Baker’s plan to immediately put to use part of Commonwealth’s direct federal aid from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to support critical priorities in cities and towns.
The Administration’s plan would commit $900 million to key energy and environmental initiatives, including $700 million to support water infrastructure upgrades and climate resiliency, and $100 million to invest in port infrastructure to support the offshore wind industry.
On March 26, 2021, Governor Baker signed comprehensive climate change legislation that enshrined the Administration’s target of Net Zero emissions by 2050 into law, significantly increased protections for Environmental Justice communities across Massachusetts, and authorized the Commonwealth to procure an additional 2,400 Megawatts (MW) of clean, reliable offshore wind energy by 2027.
In September 2016, Governor Baker signed Executive Order 569 which lays out a comprehensive approach to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions, safeguard residents, municipalities and businesses from the impacts of climate change, and build a more resilient Commonwealth. In April 2021, the Administration announced it had achieved its goal of investing $1 billion in climate change mitigation in adaptation since 2015 through programs like the nation-leading Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Program, which has now enrolled 93 percent of cities and towns in Massachusetts.
MassDEP is responsible for ensuring clean air and water, safe management and recycling of solid and hazardous wastes, timely cleanup of hazardous waste sites and spills and the preservation of wetlands and coastal resources.