Energy Task Force reviews 2013, looks ahead

by Karina Coombs

The Energy Task Force has recently completed projects funded through Carlisle’s first Green Community grant and is preparing to apply for a second round of funding from the state. Carlisle received an initial grant for $139,000 from the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) with the goal to reduce energy costs for town buildings and install solar panels on the Carlisle School. 

2013 accomplishments

During its January 15 meeting, Chair Dan Cook outlined the Task Force’s accomplishments in 2013: An automation system was installed at Town Hall to regulate heating and cooling as well as motion sensors to control lighting. LED lighting was installed in the parking lots at both Town Hall and the Carlisle School. Controls were installed to turn off school vending machines at times when the machines are not in use, such as nights and weekends. Motion sensor power strips were installed in Town Hall, Gleason Library, the Fire Station, Police Station, the Carlisle School and DPW to automatically shut off non-essential items such as lamps and monitors when not in use. A 10-kilowatt solar panel system was installed on the roof of the Carlisle School. Home energy assessments for interested residents were conducted under the MASS SAVE program and will continue into 2014. The group worked on its website (www.greencarlisle.org) where residents can learn about various programs and energy-saving tips.

The successful Solarize MASS program was also a highlight for 2013. In partnership with Chelmsford, Carlisle was selected to participate in the solar panel volume discount program along with a number of other communities. A total of 54 Carlisle households contracted systems with a Solar Flair Energy, resulting in the addition of 380 kilowatts of solar energy to the town’s existing systems. However, 50% of Carlisle residents who expressed an interest in solar panels and had a home assessment were unable to participate in the program, because of too much tree coverage on their properties. Cook explained that these households would factor into one of the group’s 2014 goals—exploring the creation of a solar garden (see article, page 1).

2014 goals

In addition to continuing the home energy assessment program and exploring a community solar facility for 2014, the Task Force will continue to look at energy use throughout town buildings and determine areas that can be addressed, whether that be lighting, hybrid vehicles or other measures. The group also hopes to work with teachers at the Carlisle School to integrate energy-related topics such as efficiency and renewable energy into the curriculum. 

Heat pumps to be promoted 

Cook explained the group is also looking at two other grants for 2014 in addition to the Green Community grant. With close to 50% of residents in both Carlisle and Concord using oil-heating systems, the Task Force would like to partner with the town of Concord for a program that would provide financial assistance to residents looking to upgrade existing oil heating systems to high-efficiency heat pumps.  The heat pumps are more energy efficient and can also be used for both heating and cooling said Cook. The towns would work with Next Step Living and local utilities.

Energy planner

Cook also discussed a state grant that would allow the two towns to hire and share a qualified municipal energy manager. The position would involve managing the energy efficiency of both Concord and Carlisle, including coordinating new energy-related projects and assisting with grants. The grant would cover the first year salary for $50,000 and benefits, but would drop to $35,000 in funding the second year with the towns expected to pick up the difference. The group noted that a qualified manager might cost more than the grant supports. After the two-year grant period expired, Concord and Carlisle would be expected to pay for the position entirely out of town funds. Cook explained that the decrease in energy bills for both towns could offset the cost.

Volunteer needed

With a member of the Energy Task Force retiring, the group is in need of one or more members. They are particularly interested in individuals with grant-writing experience. And while an engineering background is helpful, the group stressed it is not a requirement. ∆