The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, September 17, 2010

Energy Task Force helps Carlisle grow greener

The Carlisle Energy Task Force convened on August 23 to discuss ongoing efforts to qualify Carlisle as a “Green Community” in order to participate in a state program legislated into existence by the Green Communities Act. The program provides detailed criteria which collectively define a “Green Community” and makes available to any towns demonstrating fulfillment of these criteria a pool of government funds (as large as $10 million) which are granted on a project-by-project basis.

The next deadline to submit evidence of qualification is late September/early October. The Energy Task Force hopes to be ready to qualify at that time but plans to continue pushing for necessary reforms regardless of time frame.

The Energy Task Force itself is an appointed advisory group of ecologically-minded volunteers who concern themselves with Carlisle’s environmental footprint. One goal of the group is to qualify Carlisle for participation in the Green Communities grant program by encouraging necessary officials and governing boards to take action within their governmental powers as well as taking independent action to satisfy the program’s entrance criteria. As of their recent meeting, two of the five umbrella criteria had been fully satisfied:

As-of-right renewable or alternate energy zoning

What it entails: The Green Communities Act defines as-of-right siting as “siting that provides for the allowed use of, and does not unreasonably regulate, or require a special permit.” In order to satisfy this criterion, a town must demonstrate that it has approved as-of-right siting for renewable or alternative energy (a) generation, (b) research facilities, or (c) manufacturing facilities.

Carlisle’s progress: As of May 2009, solar energy generation systems are zoned as-of-right.

Stretch building code

What it entails: A set of high energy efficiency requirements for new construction of large residential properties and commercial properties must be adopted.

Carlisle’s progress: Task force member Glenn Reed noted at the meeting that the new state energy code went into effect on July 1 and that the so-called “stretch code,” a more rigorous set of efficiency-related construction standards compliant with the Green Communities benchmarks, was adopted by Carlisle’s Town Meeting this spring. Though there is a six-month concurrency period before the stretch code formally goes into effect, the Green Communities Act criterion has been satisfied with its Town Meeting passage.

There remain three criteria to satisfy:

Energy use baseline inventory for municipal buildings

What it entails: A complete inventory of energy use must first be compiled for municipally owned and operated buildings, street and traffic lighting and municipal vehicles. Next, a plan must be put in place to reduce these energy baselines by 20% over a five-year period. The establishment of a reasonable plan is all that the program requires; the actual execution of that plan is up to the town to oversee.

Carlisle’s progress: The inventory of energy use baselines has already been completed, but a reduction plan is not yet fully in place. Some experimental projects have been undertaken already; National Grid was called upon to assess and improve the energy efficiency at Town Hall, which it hired a firm, Aecom, to do. New energy-efficient lighting has already been installed, though there have been complaints from officials who use that building that it is dim and distorted.

Further, there are concerns about the climate control system in the Nickles Room, which is reportedly as cold as 59°F during the day. Dan Cook mentioned a contact, Fred Dory (an NSTAR engineer), as a possible consultant in attempting to work out the energy issues at Town Hall. Steve Hinton agreed that professionals needed to be consulted, pointing out that “whatever it is we’re doing here doesn’t seem to be working . . . this building is not that complex.”

Other possible elements of the baseline reduction plan include a new boiler system at the Police Station, thermal storm guards on windows in the Highland Building and improvements to the Transfer Station. Audits of the school and library remain to be carried out.

Purchase Fuel-Efficient Vehicles

What it entails: All municipal vehicles must be properly inventoried and assessed in terms of model, year, estimated miles per gallon (MPG) and expected replacement dates. A thorough plan to replace those vehicles not meeting a set of fuel efficiency ratings is also required. (Emergency vehicles are exempted.)

Carlisle’s progress: Carlisle’s municipal fleet is entirely composed of service vehicles, like police cruisers, DPW vehicles and fire trucks. Many of these vehicles are exempted from fuel efficiency benchmarks due to their emergency vehicle status. Service vehicles purchased in the future are planned to meet the program’s requirements. Further solidification of these plans is necessary to satisfy this criterion as a whole, though the town is quite close to doing so currently.

Expedited Application and Permitting Process

What it entails: An application and permitting process not exceeding 12 months from initial application to ultimate approval must be applied to the As-of-Right Renewable or Alternate Energy zoning districts described above.

Carlisle’s progress: Cook identified this criterion as potentially the most difficult to satisfy among the five as it would require willingness by the Planning Board to make significant changes to current processes, requiring a great deal of work and discussion. Nevertheless, the Energy Task Force discussed the possibility of making a presentation to the Planning Board explaining to them the significant financial benefits of qualifying for the Green Communities program as an incentive to make the necessary changes.

Website under construction

The Energy Task Force is currently in the process of constructing a website through which town residents will be able to track progress on Green Communities qualification, and additionally to make energy audits and bills for municipal buildings publicly available. Statistics about residential energy usage may also be posted, pending their disclosure by NGRID and NSTAR. ∆

© 2010 The Carlisle Mosquito