Green Communities Thrive in Massachusetts

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(Photo Courtesy of PV Squared in Greenfield, MA)

Massachusetts is getting greener, and that is great news for the cities and towns across the Commonwealth seeking to cut energy costs that ultimately save taxpayer dollars.

Just last week, state and local officials announced that 13 more municipalities received the state’s coveted Green Community Designation. The 13 new communities include Ashburnham, Belmont, Dalton, Dudley, Everett, Goshen, Halifax, Lanesborough, Millville, Pembroke, Upton, Warwick and Wellfleet.

That brings the total to 136 green communities, more than half of the state’s 351 cities and towns.

The Green Community Designation and Grant program is run by the Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs (EOEE), which rewards communities that meet five clean energy benchmarks:

• Provide as-of-right siting in designated locations for renewable/alternative energy generation, research & development, or manufacturing facilities.
• Adopt an expedited application and permit process for as-of-right energy facilities.
• Establish an energy use baseline and develop a plan to reduce energy use by twenty percent (20%) within five (5) years.
• Purchase only fuel-efficient vehicles
• Set requirements to minimize life-cycle energy costs for new construction by adopting the new Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS) Stretch Code.

In addition to recognizing the new communities, Governor Deval Patrick released the program’s first ever progress report , which indicates that seven communities already in the program have achieved a 20 percent reduction in municipal energy: Arlington, Belchertown, Cambridge, Natick, Palmer, Springfield and Sutton.

“Today, we mark a significant milestone, with more than half the Commonwealth’s population now residing in a Green Community,” said EOEE Secretary Maeve Vallely Bartlett. “These 136 communities have committed to locking in energy savings, protecting our environment and saving municipal energy dollars.”

Green Communities grants have already supported more than 500 completed projects across the Commonwealth, projected to deliver annual energy cost savings of nearly $4 million.

Once they receive the Green Communities designation, cities and towns are eligible for awards to fund local renewable power and energy efficiency projects that advance both municipal and state clean energy goals. Grants awarded so far assist an array of projects across the state, including the installation of solar panels on town office buildings, weatherization at schools and municipal buildings, installation of high-efficiency street lights and a host of energy efficiency upgrades.

Here is a video of Green Community participants.

The Patrick Administration’s aggressive clean energy initiatives have made Massachusetts a leader in energy efficiency, renewable energy and emissions reductions. The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) recently named Massachusetts number one for energy efficiency for the fourth consecutive year. In 2007, Massachusetts had just over 3 megawatts each of solar and wind capacity installed. Today there are 699 megawatts of solar installed, with a goal of 1,600 megawatts by 2020. The Commonwealth has installed 107 megawatts of land-based wind and is poised to be home to the nation’s first offshore wind farm.

Here is how to become a green community in Massachusetts.