CHARLEMONT — The town has a municipal lighting plant (MLP) designation from the state to produce its own broadband network. Now town officials are beginning to explore using that designation for its original purpose — to produce electricity.
The Selectboard is asking for the help of engineering- and tech-minded residents to review and research ideas for an electricity micro-grid for the town’s village center “based on natural resources, with ownership options of public, private or public/private enterprises,” reads an announcement recently put out by the board. This would be a three-month research project for those volunteers.
Selectboard member Marguerite Willis said the town has many natural resources that could be used for electricity generation. “If we have that authority, and we have the natural resources, what could we do?” she asks.
Besides the Deerfield River capabilities, the town has the water power of streams coming down from the mountains, she said. Willis hopes the mapping of the town’s natural resources could further discussion of renewable energy sources for the town, such as water turbines.
The state’s “Municipal Light Plant” law was enacted roughly 100 years ago, to enable towns and cities to own and operate their own electric plants. It was useful to rural places, where commercial utilities were slow to offer service because of the small rural populations. In recent years, the old law has been resurrected to enable towns to own and run their own broadband networks.
Selectmen are asking residents interested in working on this project to call or email Town Administrator Peg Dean by Sept. 1. Her phone number is 339-4335, ext. 8, and the email is: email@example.com