NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

January 9, 2014

Selectmen to discuss uses for $140,900 energy grant

BY JENNIFER SOLIS
CORRESPONDENT

---- — WEST NEWBURY — Thanks to the hard work of the all-volunteer Energy Advisory Committee, West Newbury was recently awarded a $140,900 grant from the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources.

A discussion of the grant, a result of the town’s new designation as a Green Community, has been added to the Board of Selectmen’s agenda for its first meeting of the New Year on Monday. Selectmen meet at 7 p.m. in the First Floor Hearing Room of the 1910 Town Office Building, 381 Main St.

The total grant allotment represents a formula of a $125,000 base grant per newly designated Green Community plus an amount adjusted for a town’s population and income. An additional $10,000 is added for Green Communities, like West Newbury, that have adopted as-of-right siting for renewable energy generation.

In May 2012 Town Meeting voters adopted an overlay district to allow large scale ground-mounted solar photovoltaic installations and then designated approximately 3.82 acres on a field at 694 Main St. as a specific site for the installation. The town is presently seeking requests for qualifications for solar PV development on the site.

Across the state 123 towns and cities have achieved Green Community status, meaning they are ranked as clean energy leaders who are now eligible for municipal renewable power and energy efficiency grants.

In December, selectmen learned that West Newbury was among the 13 municipalities to earn the status that month. The milestone marks several years of work by the EAC to achieve the five criteria required for a town to gain the designation.

According to EAC chairman Rick Parker, the grant funds will be applied toward energy reduction projects identified in a plan his committee developed as part of the criteria to earn Green Community status.

“If West Newbury applies for competitive grants in the future, we can pursue additional energy efficiencies and conservation projects or renewable generation projects,” Parker added.

According to the grant’s guidelines, a Green Community can elect to apply for only a portion of its grant funds at this time if additional audits or studies are required. But in order to access the funds at all, the town must first submit its request to the state no later than Jan. 29.

No more than 10 percent of the grant may be used to fund administrative costs. All proposed projects should be completed within approximately one year from contract execution, the guidelines state.

The town will also receive four 12-by-18-inch signs announcing its newly achieved Green Community status for placement around the community. And West Newbury will soon be profiled on the web page “Faces of Green Communities” found on the state’s Mass.gov website.

“From the tip of Cape Cod to the Berkshires, Green Communities such as yours are pursuing their own unique pathways to a clean, sustainable, and more economical energy future,” wrote Meg Lusardi, director Green Communities Division, in a letter of congratulations sent to selectmen chairman Bert Knowles Jr. late last month.

To maintain this hard-earned status, the town must send the DOER a report by Nov. 30 each year detailing its progress and continued compliance with the criteria required to achieve the special designation.