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What the Montague Energy Committee is up to

PRESS RELEASE: Montague, MA-May 27, 2011-The Montague Energy Committee may have been off the public radar for a while, but it has been actively planning and moving forward with a number of projects and goals. Over the winter, the committee prioritized its goals, deciding to focus on working with residents and small businesses to promote energy efficiency, while it wraps up on-going projects and addresses energy-related town issues that demand short-term action.

Plans are in the works to offer two hands-on, volunteer work sessions to weatherize the Millers Falls and Montague Center libraries this fall. The committee will be looking for people willing to take a few hours to caulk and weather-strip windows and doors, for example. The Carnegie Library will be weatherized under the town energy performance contract that Montague is signing with Siemens. Members of the committee continue to provide input as the town finalizes this performance contract.

Meanwhile, the solar hot water panels purchased this winter with Clean Energy Choice matching funds, donated by Montague residents, will be installed this summer. Bob Trombley, Superintendent of Montague’s Water Pollution Control Facility, is taking the lead on getting bids for installation of these panels and will use funds from the pollution control budget to have the panels installed on the roof of the facility’s office building, where the solar panels will heat water for staff showers.

Several committee members with technical expertise in lighting have reviewed lighting plans for the Gill-Montague Bridge. In contrast to the state’s commitment to reducing energy consumption, the replacement lighting on the bridge will greatly increase energy use and light pollution, adding approximately 50 150-watt high-pressure sodium lights which will illuminate in all directions. Because the state will pay the electricity for bridge lighting and will maintain the lights, the town has no say in these lighting decisions. The energy committee has decided to explore the possibility of a dark sky ordinance for the town, which would address light pollution.

Soon, the Massachusetts Green Communities Grant Program will be announcing a request for proposals for competitive grants to help municipalities pursue energy efficiency measures. As a Green Community, Montague will be able to apply for its second grant from this program. The energy committee is exploring possibilities for such projects that would be competitive with other qualifying Green Communities; ideas are welcome. Out a committee discussion with Tom Bergeron, Montague’s Superintendent of Public Works, came one possible project to include in a grant proposal: the replacement of the globes on light posts on Avenue A with energy efficient light-emitting diode (LED) globes.

Lastly, the energy committee joined the planning board at its last meeting to make recommendations and raise questions about draft regulations for photovoltaic (PV) and hot water solar installations in Montague. The energy committee was pleased to learn that the planning board’s intent is to promote solar energy. The planning board confirmed that Massachusetts law allows roof-mounted installations on any building, as reflected in Montague’s draft regulations.

The planning board’s proposed regulations allow for town oversight for some ground-mounted solar panels, with a focus on large installations. Three to five acre solar projects in the industrial district would require a site plan; projects over five acres would also require a special permit. Ground mounted installations are allowed as of right, for projects under three acres in the industrial district.

Ground-mounted solar panels for residential PV or solar hot water, primarily for on-site use, would require a special permit while others, such as residential PV for off-site use only, would not be allowed. The energy committee raised the question of why and how the regulations would regulate where the electricity will be used, citing a desirable prospect of neighborhood net metering where solar power generated on one property might be shared among several neighbors. Planning committee members were unaware of this practice and seemed open to adjusting their regulations to allow for neighborhood net metering. When the planning committee finalizes its regulations, they must then be approved by town meeting and reviewed by the attorney general and the Department of Energy Resources.

For More Information, Contact:
Sally Pick, member, Montague Energy Committee, 413-367-0082, SJP@crocker.com

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