By Matthew Robare
The Town of Saugus is looking to go green, saving taxpayers money and reducing the town’s carbon footprint. Town Manager Scott Crabtree said he’s been working with the board of selectmen, the Alternative Energy Committee and Town Meeting Moderator Bob Long, as well as several companies looking to take advantage of deregulation that allows energy customers to sell back what they produce themselves.
“We’re not committed to any solar power organization right now,” said Joanne Vannah of the Alternative Energy Committee. She added, “One of the organizations has been doing a review of energy efficiency in the town of Saugus. Half of the energy costs of the town are the schools.”
“Overall, we’re looking to reduce our energy costs over a five year period,” Crabtree said.
Vannah explained that one of the things they were looking into was installing rooftop solar panels on the schools but cautioned that it was unlikely, because most of them have older roofs. She did say that it was a possibility for the Veterans Memorial School and Belmonte Middle School because of the work being done on them.
Crabtree said that the town was also looking at partnering with a company to build a solar farm on the DPW landfill and covering town parking lots and putting solar panels on the covers. He said that the solar farm proposal was attractive because it would generate rent for the town.
“We could have solar panels on a rooftop that we would purchase as a capital expense and enjoy direct savings,” Crabtree said. With rooftop solar panels, he added, the town could sell the electricity generated during peak hours back to the grid, thus reducing costs. He compared energy usage to a bell curve on a graph and said that the flatter the curve the better the price for selling it back.
“One of the organizations we’ve looked at has been long at their business with residential,” Vannah said. Residential solar power would present challenges in Saugus because of the high amount of tree cover.
Vannah also said that the committee was also working with an organization that would work with Saugus businesses on solar power. She added, “Other Saugus businesses want to pursue the same goal, if they could get a discount.”
“One of the things we’re looking at is to get accepted as a green community,” Crabtree said. “That’s a program to support municipalities’ green initiatives.” He added that being accepted as a green community would involve reducing energy costs by 20 percent over five years and buying more fuel-efficient vehicles and heating and air conditioning systems, and it would make the town eligible for annual grants.
It’s not just solar power fueling the possibilities for Saugus. Vannah said that the six month wind study had been completed and the results were “reasonably favorable” for wind power on the Rumney Marsh. She explained, “The other half of the battle is conservation. “That goes hand-in-hand with alternative energy.” She noted that the Alternative Energy Committee is working with Bike-to-the-Sea to bring bike rentals to the rail trail and stated, “We have been focused on the town.”
According to the US Department of Energy, 85 percent more solar panels were installed in the first quarter of 2012 than in the first quarter of 2011 and total capacity could reach 3,300 megawatts by the end of the year. In 2006, according to the US Energy Information Administration, renewable energy accounted for seven percent of the nation’s electricity, and solar power provided just one percent of that.