by Emily Kaminsky
With its newly approved 2015 master plan in hand, the city of Barre already has several energy efficiency projects underway and one completed. “The city has been very proactive in terms of energy efficiency projects,” says City Manager Steve Mackenzie. “We’re regularly conducting energy audits on municipal buildings, we’ve relamped the B.O.R. Ice Arena, and have other energy efficiency projects in the works.”
The city’s first clean energy project, a seed of an idea when launched more than seven years ago, has finally come to fruition this spring. Dubbed the Nelson Street Hydroelectric and Pressure Reducing Station Project, this $650,000 in-pipe hydro-electric energy recovery project at the intersection of Nelson and Hill streets generates power by recovering excess water pressure.
The 12 kilowatt “flow-to-wire” system captures excess pressure and flow within the gravity-fed water distribution pipeline, converting it into clean energy for the electric grid. The vault site is located within the city’s water distribution system. The turbine technology demonstrates the possibility of recovering energy from pressurized water systems. The power generated will save the city money by offsetting approximately 62,200 kilowatt-hours or $9,000 per year at the city’s water treatment facility. The project was funded through a grant secured from the Clean Energy Development Fund and favorable financing from the State Water Supply Division.
While the likelihood of another net-metered hydroelectric energy recovery project is slim, Mackenzie reports that the city has a variety of other energy efficiency initiatives in the works, including the possibility of two 500 kilowatt solar net-metering projects. At the July 8 Barre City Council meeting, Novus Energy Development, LLC presented an overview of the projects, which could net-meter enough electricity to meet 90 percent of the city government’s electrical needs. The estimated savings for the city is $700,000 over 20 years. One site, the former Skyline Ski Center, has already been identified, and NED, LLC is looking for a second. While the city council is in the early stages of reviewing the proposal, there is a high likelihood that the project will move forward within 30 days, with project completion in 2015.
The city is also encouraging the use of electric vehicles by installing two electric recharging stations. Two have already been installed by Mayor Thomas Lauzon on his private property behind ReSource and two others will be installed by the city on Pearl Street and Depot Square, thanks to a $30,000 grant received from the State Agency of Commerce & Community Development.
Mackenzie also reports that another project, the relamping of street lamps in the city grid, will get under way soon. By January 1, 2015, Green Mountain Power will change all the lamps to LED lighting, resulting in a $50,000 annual savings to the city’s electric bills.
There are more opportunities for energy efficiency projects on the horizon, according to the city’s master plan. With the help of an active citizens’ energy committee, Mackenzie is confident the city is up to the challenge. “I’ve come to realize that volunteer committees extend the resources of a thinly-funded municipal budget. Barre Energy Awareness Resource (BEAR) is active in helping us move forward on several initiatives,” he explains. Citizens interested in getting involved with BEAR can contact the city manager’s office at 476-0240.