SHIRLEY — When Selectmen Chairman Andy Deveau ran for office, one of his campaign promises was to seek out opportunities for the town to tap into natural-energy resources such as wind, solar and water power as environmentally friendly alternatives to oil and gas and electricity fired by fossil fuels.
But budget deficits were an all-consuming priority last year and the idea had to be sidelined. It was not forgotten, however, and now, with the Budget Committee meetings and the ATM behind him, Deveau is back on track.
At the June 29 selectmen’s meeting, Deveau said he had met with an expert last week from a Belchertown firm that specializes in alternative energy and he is currently gathering data for a proposal.
Together, they toured the town, scouting for possible windmill locations, he said, including roofs of town buildings, but found golden opportunities for solar power instead.
“He said we have lots of roof space for solar arrays,” Deveau said, particularly the south-facing roof of the Hazen Memorial Library. “It’s perfect!” he said.
He and his visitor looked at water-power possibilities, too, including old hydro-systems at Phoenix Park, formerly Sampson Cordage Works that might be reactivated. A mill wheel once powered the machinery inside the former factory, which is now an office park. The old George Frost Co., now the President’s Building, has similar potential, he said.
They also looked at the dam at Lake Shirley, he said “That’s a prime location for hydro,” Deveau said. The dam straddles the Shirley/Lunenburg town line, but the control valve is on the Shirley side, he said.
In addition, he took the visitor to the old dump, which has been eyed as a potential location for windmills but could also become the site of a future solar farm, Deveau said. The upshot is there’s “great potential for renewable solar power in town, Deveau said, clearly excited about the possibilities of tapping the sun for power versus National Grid.
The initial outlay for solar panels and installation wouldn’t be small, and would mean borrowing, but the big-ticket projects could be eligible for energy grants, and he’s learned that cost savings could start “from day one,” he said, not to mention saving the planet.
“If in 15 years we could get free electricity” for town buildings, it would be worth the investment, Deveau said.