GREENFIELD — Aboard the town’s green trolley, an energy chairman got a firsthand Greening Greenfield view of energy projects new and in the works, with an eye toward the role his state panel could play in the region’s sustainability efforts.
House Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Chairman Thomas A. Golden Jr. of Lowell got to see the Pioneer Valley Photovoltaics (PV Squared) and Real Pickles cooperatives along with developer Mark Zaccheo’s renovated Allen Street schoolhouse, which has become apartments that don’t need the grid. He also discussed, with officials at Greenfield Community College and town hall, GCC’s Sustainable Agriculture and Green Energy program and efforts to reduce energy costs as well as carbon dioxide emissions in what is the state’s first Green Community.
“We’ve had a great, great day,” he told college officials. The tour also showed off energy efficiencies that were built into the Olver Transit Center, the new Franklin County Courthouse, the new Greenfield High School and a home built for less than $160,000 by Spartan Giordano, a GCC SAGE program alumnus-turned solar-energy contractor who was among the 10 people on the tour.
At the town hall, Energy and Sustainability Director Carole Collins and Mayor William Martin outlined the success of the Greenfield Light and Power program, which saved $208,000 in the first half of this year alone, with $35,000 in savings in municipal electricity costs.
“We’re looking to be more independent,” Martin told Golden. “The more we can do ourselves, the less dependence on others, the better we can manage our own business and revenues and expenses.” With municipal aggregation, he added, “We provide all the electricity for everyone in town, 100 percent green,” with a rate of 9.90 per kilowatt hour for 2018.
Golden said Tuesday’s tour was originally suggested by Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru, who was on board. Mark is the sponsor of two bills before Golden’s committee, calling for raising the cap on how many small-scale solar energy projects can connect to the grid, and for establishing a state “green bank” to help pay for energy efficiency projects and renewable energy projects around the state.
In the months ahead, Golden said his committee will be trying to raise several energy standards. The Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) program was authorized by last year’s energy legislation to eliminate the lag in solar-power development through incentives that have expired under renewable energy credits.
“We are moving toward 1,600 megawatts (of solar-powered generation), but we’re trying to get there where it’s financially affordable for everybody. I think we’re at a crossroads. The SMART program will be challenging, but I think it will be out by the spring” from the Baker administration, which Golden said has to find the right balance between affordability and profit.
A key concern, he said, is the possibility that President Trump may decide to slap a tariff on Chinese-made solar panels, making them more unaffordable, with people then looking to the state to provide additional incentives.
Golden met with some of the leaders of PV Squared, a Wells Street cooperative that has grown from four to 46 employees over the past 16 years, as well as leaders of Real Pickles, which does $1.3 million in sales and buys 300,000 pounds of vegetables, nearly all from within a 40-mile radius. At that meeting, Golden heard the same message he heard from Town Hall and GCC officials: the value of investing in local jobs while also encouraging renewable energy and sustainable agriculture.
“I think the community here is very in sync with those values of sustainability, about alternative systems for food, and to do that in a way that meshes for us,” GCC President Robert Pura told Golden. “It’s not a foreign idea here; it’s part of the conversation in the community.”
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