West Tisbury is moving towards becoming a more energy-efficient town, but town officials will have to move quickly to file an application before a May 30 deadline to be designated by the state as a Green Community.
The town energy committee is nearing completion on a comprehensive plan to reduce the town’s energy use by 20 percent over the next five years, which is the main component to being designated a Green Community under the 2008 state Green Communities Act.
Energy Committee Chairman Sandy Shapiro presented an Energy Reduction Plan (ERP) to selectmen at their regular meeting on May 16, citing two reasons to achieve the Green Community designation by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EOEEA).
The first is that the town will consume less energy, which will save money and also be better for the environment. But meeting the Green Communities standard will also put the town in a position to receive state and federal grants and other sources of funding, Mr. Shapiro said.
In order to be designated by Green Community by the EOEEA the town must meet five criteria, including providing an as-of-right siting in designated locations for renewable and alternative energy generation, research and development, or manufacturing facilities.
The town must also adopt an expedited application and permit process for as-of-right energy facilities, establish an energy use baseline, and develop a plan to reduce energy use by 20 percent within five years.
The town must also purchase only fuel-efficient vehicles and must minimize life-cycle energy costs for new construction. One way to meet these requirements is to adopt the new Board of Building Regulations and Standards Stretch Code.
Mr. Shapiro said the town has already committed to meeting four of the five the criteria. Voters have already voted to purchase only fuel-efficient vehicles and to adopt the more energy-efficient Stretch Code for new buildings.
Mr. Shapiro told selectmen the town still has to meet the criteria to establish a baseline and develop an Energy Reduction Plan (ERP) to cut the town’s energy use by 20 percent in five years, which he said is easily the most difficult of the five criteria.
The town ERP proposes to do this by reducing energy in town buildings, vehicles, and streetlights. An audit done by the Cape Light Compact shows the town currently uses 2.5 billion BTUs of energy each year.
Of that figure 52 percent of the energy is used for town buildings, 47 percent by town vehicles and one percent for streetlights.
Mr. Shapiro said the energy committee has already found a way to cut energy use by 460 million BTUs annually, but still needs to find areas to shave another 40 million BTUs to reach the Green Communities standard by 2017.
The ERP calls for the town to reduce energy use of 78 million BTUs at the Howes House, 70 million BTUs at the Public Safety Building, 59 million BTUs at the old Fire House One building, 148 million BTUs in town vehicles, 30 million BTUs in streetlights, and 80 million BTUs through a building program.
To meet these goals, the energy committee has proposed specific changes in their ERP at the town buildings. Under the plan new insulation and air sealing would be installed at the Howes House, along with a boiler reset control and an on-demand hot water heater and new windows.
At the public safety building the hot water/heating system would be replaced with a modulating fuel fired boiler/water heater with a boiler reset control. At Fire House 1 new insulation would be installed and an on-demand water heater would be installed as well as a new heating unit.
Mr. Shapiro said things get complicated when it comes to some of the other town buildings.
The new town hall, for example, was built to a higher energy-efficient standard, which limits the opportunities for further efficiencies and actually makes it more difficult to improve on the established baseline.
The town library is about to undergo a major renovation and restoration, and the new building will have a very low baseline heating expenditure which means a reduction in heating expenditures in unlikely. The plan projects a reduction of only 20 million BTUs at the library.
The ERP also notes that a new and larger police station is planned with a completion date of 2016, and the fate of the current building has yet to be determined. “The historic nature of this edifice makes it unlikely that it will be demolished,” the report states, adding:
“Taking the building out of the town’s building assets could reduce the building and the town energy expenditure to zero from 96 million BTUs in our computation. If, however, the new building is compared to the old one a savings of about 60 million BTUs is projected.”
Selectmen noted that the Field Gallery, which the town recently purchased, was not part of the report. Mr. Shapiro said that building would not be factored into the baseline since it was only recently acquired.
Mr. Shapiro also said the West Tisbury School is not part of the ERP since it is controlled by the Up-Island School District.
The ERP report states the town is investigating the possibility of having NSTAR convert 41 of the lamps in town to high-pressure sodium units, which will decrease energy use by 50 percent, and or 30 million BTUs.
As for town vehicles, the ERP states that the town could realize a fuel savings of 48 million BTUs from a rotational retirement of older vehicles, which will be replaced by more fuel-efficient ones.
The report states the town could see another savings of 88 million BTUs with a rotational retirement program for the police department and another 60 million BTUs by installing Idle-Right devices on two cruisers.
These systems are designed to allow emergency vehicles to be parked with warning lights flashing continuously while minimizing engine idle time and decreasing fuel consumption.
Mr. Shapiro said the report was still in flux and could be adapted over the next five years as the town’s energy use changes or additional areas for improvement are discovered.
“Our suggestions are not written in stone, and there will be room for flexibility in a few years or three years hence when the [state Department of Energy Resources] are evaluating how we live up to this,” he said.
But he warned selectmen that if they did not submit the final ERP by the May 30 deadline they would have to wait another year before they could apply again.
“We think it’s worth it because we don’t think there are any terrible, off-the-wall suggestions,” Mr. Shapiro said.
Selectmen said they needed more time to review the ERP report, but were expected to appprove the report when they meet Wednesday, May 23 in order to give the energy committee time to meet the deadline. There was only minimal feedback, but it was mostly positive.
“I think you have done a great job and done a lot of work, because this doesn’t happen by itself,” selectman Richard Knabel said. “You have a lot of data.”