GREENFIELD — It’s taken a bit longer than originally projected, but the town has succeeded in its goal of reducing energy use by 20 percent. In fact, according to preliminary estimates, it has cut municipal energy consumption by 22 percent.
That amounts to an estimated $2 million or more in savings from 2008 levels from heating and lighting town-owned buildings, street and traffic lights, vehicles, water and sewer operations and lighting parks and recreation areas.
Savings for what in 2010 became the first Green Community in Massachusetts was calculated at $1,985,296 as of last April, $805,000 of which was from electricity generated by Greenfield’s landfill-capping solar array. Roughly $275,000 per year in savings results from the solar farm, and at least $164,340 is saved annually from the energy-efficiency projects implemented.
The savings have increased with some projects the town completed this fall, and some larger projects are planned for next spring and summer.
Carole Collins, the town’s energy and sustainability director, emphasized that the savings to the town, made possible through its status as part of the state’s Green Communities program, have not yet been certified by the Massachusetts Department Energy and Environmental Affairs.
But she added, “It’s great to see it’s had such an impact. We’ve been able to make some significant strides.”
Each of the Green Communities, Collins said, agrees to reduce its municipal energy consumption across all sectors in five years.
“It’s proven to be incredibly difficult, and we came really close, then it slipped away a little bit,” she said, because of difficult winters. “It’s taken us eight years to get to this point.”
But building each year on the efficiencies of the year before, the town seems to be gaining steam, she said.
This year, Collins has been seeking a solution to deal with energy costs for the 1848 Town Hall and Green River School, built a century later, according to Greening Greenfield member Sandy Thomas of the University of Massachusetts Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment.
Ben Weil, an assistant professor of environmental conservation began working with Collins and town officials to assess how buildings performed and made recommendations that Thomas said could lead to switching Town Hall to a heat pump system.
“We continue do energy-efficient projects that are paid mostly from grants, and those savings just keep accumulating,” said Collins, “so once we get those projects done, our energy costs go down and we continually accumulate the savings.”
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