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Energy Committee tackles next hurdle to becoming green

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TOWNSEND — Townsend is getting closer to qualifying as a Massachusetts Green Community.

Voters at town meeting this fall approved an overlay district for ground-mounted solar arrays and expedited the permitting process for installing an array. They approved a stretch code to improve energy efficiency of new residential buildings.

The selectmen approved a vehicle policy to replace town vehicles with more efficient vehicles, Christopher Campion, chairman of the energy committee, said. Vehicles for public safety and the highway department are exempt from the policy.

The final step for qualification is to make a plan to reduce the town’s energy use by 20 percent over five years, he said. The baseline year for comparison is 2010 land use co-coordinator Karen Chapman said.

When the plan is made and the town qualifies as a green community, grant money will be available to pay for the changes needed to implement energy savings, she said.

The committee met with two town department heads Dec. 15 to review energy use and identify even the smallest potential areas of savings.

Highway Department

The highway department building is only three years old, Superintendent Ed Kukkula said. Since it was built they have made few changes in energy use. He does plan to install a few more motion detectors to turn interior lights off when they are not in use.

Some outside lights could be safely turned off and others put on motion detectors, he added. Some need to remain on because other town departments fuel vehicles at the yard even when it’s dark.

The garage bays use infrared heat. “It uses a lot less money than your baseboard,” he said. The air-conditioning is all programmed to heighten efficiency.

“This is good news in reality,” Campion said of the department’s overall energy efficiency.

Part of the land attached to the highway garage was included in the overlay district for a solar array. Kukkula said he approached the selectmen in 2008 with a plan to install solar power and never heard back from them.

Water Department

Water Department Supervisor Paul Rafuse and the department has made progress in energy efficiency over the last several years but the committee found areas for improvement.

An array of 82 solar panels at the Harbor Trace pumping station reduced energy costs between 35 and 40 percent, Rafuse said. It was built with grants at no cost to the water department or the town, he said.

A variable frequency drive on a pump at Witches Brook also increased efficiency. Unitil paid half the $35,000 cost of the pump, Rafuse said.

Other pumping stations are not equipped with the VFD pumps. Heating and air-conditioning units at pumping stations and the office are old.

“The Witches Brook gas heaters look like they came over on the Mayflower,” Rafuse said.

Rafuse said he would like to install a computer-based meter reading and monitor system, which would include bringing breaker systems up-to-code.

Some of the energy savings at the water department have occurred after the baseline year of 2010 and can be included in the plan to reduce energy use, committee member Sandra Brown said.

Other changes to save energy will require funding.

“Once we are designated as a green community we can get grant money and that’s what we can use to implement the plan,” Chapman said.

The committee will continue meeting with town employees and inventorying the town’s energy use as it develops the plan.

Reducing energy use is the lion’s share of the work involved in becoming a green community, Champion said. “That’s the important one.”

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