Shedding a Light on ‘Green’ Energy Savings

The Marion Energy Management Committee is tasked with reviewing thousands of data points, a myriad of details associated with energy-consuming machines, buildings, systems, and the people that require the smooth and continuous flow of power to fuel modern-day living. No small task indeed. And the goal: to save the town real dollars through the utilization of fuel-saving equipment and processes.

The EMC has been studying everything from fuel-efficient town vehicles to sewer pumps and new building codes, leaving no stone unturned in their effort to help the town achieve ‘Green Community’ status with the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources.

During the February 26 meeting of the EMC, Bill Saltonstall gave a report on his efforts working with various town departments with an eye towards energy audits, a critical component of the overall review process. He said that in seeking to achieve a 20% energy use reduction over a five-year period – a requirement for Green Community certification – he was collecting data on fuel use, LED lights, and is planning energy audits for town-owned structures.

“In order to find that twenty percent, we are going to have to scratch around because we’ve done so much so far,” said Saltonstall. “I’ve been to all the buildings,” he said chuckling, “…The town barn is the worst – a real energy hog.”

Saltonstall said energy audits were needed to uncover areas where additional improvements could equate to additional savings, inching the town along towards completing a very long to-do list established by the Mass DER for certifying cities and towns as Green Communities.

The goal for securing certification not only carries the reward of saving the town money, but moreover it qualifies the town for grants, technical assistance from the Green Community Division, and local support in energy and cost reduction through clean energy projects in buildings, facilities, and schools.

            Some of the areas the committee has earmarked for further study include: renovation of the Town House; anti-idling equipment for police cruisers; LED streetlamps; thermostat upgrades for the Music Hall, Atlantis Drive building, and the library; upgrading of water and sewer pump stations; more electric or hybrid town vehicles; and solar arrays on town-owned buildings.

Regarding the energy-efficient vehicles the town currently owns, committee member Christian Ingerslev said that the general public needed access to the plug-in stations during the day. He said town vehicles were parked at the charging stations even when not re-charging, making public access impossible. The group thought sending a letter to the Board of Selectmen and other town departments alerting them that the stations are required to be open to the public during business hours was needed. Committee member Jennifer Francis said she would draft the missive.

On the matter of solar arrays in the community, it was reported that since zoning bylaw changes some five years ago that opened the door to private and commercial solar installations, 140 such installation were now operational in town.

Another important aspect of the Green Community process is the adoption of what is known at the Stretch Building Code. Adopted in 2009 by the International Building Code, the Stretch Code was added to the building code to provide greater energy-efficient alternatives to the standard energy provisions of the code. Although not mandated, the Stretch Code is part of the checklist for becoming a Green Community. Town Planner Gil Hilario said he had been in conversation with Building Inspector Scott Shippey regarding this addendum to the IBC, although at this point in time to no conclusion.

Earlier in the evening, committee member David Pierce brought up the matter of an October 20, 2017 open meeting complaint. “We’ve heard nothing from the state,” he said. Pierce concluded that a lack of any further communication on the matter generally meant it was closed. Ingerslev suggested keeping the matter open pending direction from town. The agenda item was tabled.

Pierce also said that he wanted to encourage public input and engagement with the EMC and hoped people would attend future meetings.

The next meeting of the Marion Energy Management Committee is scheduled for March 26 at 7:00 pm in the Marion Music Hall.

Marion Energy Management Committee

By Marilou Newell


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