A statewide environmental group has recognized a number of western Massachusetts cities as clean energy leaders. Environment Massachusetts is recognizing about 15 communities for leading the way toward 100 percent renewable energy.
The group’s representatives joined Pittsfield’s Open Space and Natural Resource Manager Jim McGrath Wednesday in noting the city’s accomplishments.
“Here in Pittsfield we’ve been very active over the past decade with our work to increase energy efficiency and seek opportunities for quality renewable projects in all areas of our municipal operations from our vehicle fleet to our public buildings and beyond,” McGrath said. “Through energy audits at many of our public buildings and city schools, we’ve identified and implemented numerous lighting, heating and cooling improvements, saving thousands of dollars along the way.”
McGrath says Pittsfield recently put online a gas conversion project at the public library that will save city taxpayers more than $40,000 a year in energy costs. Similar upgrades have been made at City Hall and Pittsfield’s art center. In addition, McGrath says the installation of an inline hydro turbine at a water flow station produces 66 kilowatts of otherwise wasted energy. He says one of the prime examples of Pittsfield’s renewable energy projects is at the wastewater treatment facility.
“Within that facility, the city installed a combined heat and power system as well as a 2 megawatt solar array,” McGrath said. “We’ve significantly reduced the energy consumption and more at this entire facility as we move toward net zero energy. As the wastewater treatment plant is the city’s largest consumer of energy, our focus at this facility made true economic sense.”
Pittsfield is also set to connect a roughly 3 megawatt solar project at the capped landfill off East St. and implement an electric municipal aggregation program. The Environment Massachusetts profile also notes Pittsfield companies have taken action. Berkshire Health Systems retrofitted its parking garages with LED lighting, which operates at 25 percent the cost of the old system.
The agency’s report includes community surveys and profiles of municipalities like Pittsfield. One hundred ninety-one of the state’s 351 cities and towns completed the survey. Forty-two percent of those that did have placed solar panels on at least one municipal property and 20 percent have installed public electric vehicle charging stations. Director Ben Hellerstein says the report comes as state lawmakers are hammering out a compromise on an omnibus energy bill.
“Cities and towns are leading the way towards 100 percent renewable energy,” Hellerstein said. “We urge state officials to follow their lead and get Massachusetts to 100 percent renewable energy as quickly as possible.”
Berkshire Environmental Action Team Executive Director Jane Winn suggested rewiring downtown rooftops to allow wind and solar power generation in Pittsfield. Environment Massachusetts also recognizes Holyoke, Northampton and Palmer in its upcoming report. The full study is set to be released August 4.