The largest city in western Massachusetts is trumpeting a big reduction in its energy use.
By taking steps that included installing new boilers and windows in dozens of school buildings, planting thousands of trees, and using organic fertilizers on athletic fields, the city of Springfield has reduced its energy consumption by 26 percent over the last decade.
Mayor Domenic Sarno said the effort is saving the city over $3.5 million annually on fuel costs.
"It is not only good for the environment, but good for the bottom line of the city budget," said Sarno.
The city had set as a goal a 25 percent reduction in energy use by 2022.
"I don't think people thought Springfield was able to do it," Sarno said.
On Tuesday, the city released a glossy 19-page report detailing its municipal energy saving successes. Sarno hosted a luncheon to congratulate facilities department employees who did much of the labor to modernize the city’s buildings.
He said there will be more to come, including a project to install solar power and energy storage systems at one of the city’s newest elementary schools.
"I have brought on a sustainability engineer to continue my go green initiatives and tackle climate change," said Sarno.
The city put $30 million of its own money into the energy efficiency projects and also drew on federal and state grants and rebate offers from energy companies to fund the work.
Sarno praised Patrick Sullivan, the city’s Executive Director of Parks, Buildings & Recreation Management, for implementing the energy master plan.
"Basically it started with doing an energy audit on all our buildings and concentrating on the bigger users," explained Sullivan.
Sullivan said the city purchases its electricity and natural gas through competitive bids from suppliers on the open market. The savings are then plowed back into energy efficiency projects.
"Everyone is talking about our planet and how we are not doing enough. Springfield is doing its part to protect the planet and if every community started doing this we would have a safer world to live in," said Sullivan.
Coincidently with the energy efficiency improvements at the city’s public school buildings has come an increase in student test scores, according to Superintendent of Schools Dan Warwick.
" We are saving energy but also creating an environment that is conducive to learning for our kids," said Warwick.
City officials also reported a 4 percent decrease in asthma cases among school children.