Being Green Assists Belmont With Energy Savings at High and Middle schools

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Photo: Chenery Middle School.

Most residents know a significant amount of educational energy is produced by teachers, staff, and students at Belmont High and Chenery Middle schools. 

What citizens may not realize is that the schools are also the greatest user of conventional energy in Belmont, consuming 50 percent of all power used in town buildings. 

Any opportunity to reduce or conserve power there could go a long way to reducing the town’s carbon footprint and save taxpayers money, according to Gerald Boyle, Belmont’s director of facilities. 

Thanks to a “green” energy grant that accompanied being designated by the state as a Green Community, Belmont’s heaviest users of energy will soon be retrofitted and installed with energy control systems with the aim of containing costs at both facilities by using electricity more efficiently. 

The $151,000 grant will pay for the bulk of the $174,000 price tag – after energy credits, the town’s contribution is $11,000 – to install the systems, said Boyle before the Belmont Board of Selectmen on Monday, Dec. 28, at Town Hall. 

“We look at the best use of our money, and we view this as collecting from low-hanging fruit,” said Boyle.

The new computerized systems will allow for greater control of the schools’ environments – cooling and heating could be operated and scheduled from the Facilities Department’s office in the Homer Building. It can also produce reports and data highlighting how specific systems components such as pumps, fans, and motors, are working and if repairs are needed, said Boyle.

According to Boyle and David Kale, town administrator, the payback will be immediate. Boyle predicts annual savings of approximately $17,000 at each school with total repayment within four and a half years.

Selectman Mark Paolillo questioned if placing the system in the High School was worth the cost as the building could be renovated beginning in the next five years. (Editor’s note: Last week the Massachusetts School Building Authority selected Belmont High in the final review round before it decides on which projects it will fund in late January 2016.)

Boyle said the systems can be incorporated into a newly-renovated building “so it will not be ripped out” when the renovation takes place.

The grant was part of the package Belmont received after being named one of the state’s Green Communities last December, which encourages energy efficiency, reduce carbon emissions and promote the town’s clean energy goals.

Belmont will also be eligible to apply for future grants – up to $250,000 each year –to fund local renewable power and energy saving projects.

Belmont became eligible to become a “green community” after meeting five criteria including:

  • committing to renewable energy-friendly zoning,
  • expedited permitting,
  • programs to reduce energy use by 20 percent within five years,
  • the purchase of fuel-efficient municipal vehicles, and
  • Creating an energy efficiency requirement – known as the “stretch” code – for new commercial/industrial construction, as well as residential construction of more than 3,000 sq.-ft. The Belmont Town Meeting adopted this code in May 2011.

As part of the application process, an energy audit by Marlborough-based Guardian Energy of all town buildings to review the lighting, water use, and windows was completed to create an energy reduction plan. Town conducted a detailed analysis of municipal buildings and the costs associated with meeting the Green Communities goals. 

Funded by a regional cap-and-trade program, more than $30 million have been paid out to cities and towns since 2010. 

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