Sutton wins ‘green’ Leadership by Example Award
BY JOSH FARNSWORTH
Local officials and legislators congratulate Sutton on its clean energy leadership award. Submitted photo Sutton became one of two towns in the state to win the 2012 Leadership by Example Award for their energy efficiency and promotion of clean energy technology.
Town Administrator Jim Smith said then-selectman Michael Chizy made a goal of becoming more energy efficient at the August goals meeting in 2008. Over the past four years, he points out that Sutton has undertaken a vast amount of clean energy projects to help the environment, as well as reach financial incentives to help the town realize savings in a tight fiscal climate.
“The fact that [solar projects] made it into the Master planning process shows how far we’ve come and how much its part of our culture,” stated Smith. Not only do you save money, but you also help to save the planet. It’s a win-win.”
“The town has to feel gratified for the effort it is being recognized for,” said Sutton Town Planner Jen Hager. “A great misconception is that when development is slow, we sit on our hands. We use these slow times to look into projects such as green initiatives to help the town and taxpayers reduce costs over time.”
Clean energy projects that helped Sutton win the award, included the installation of 201 kW solar panels on the Simonian Center, current construction on the new middle/high school with a 100 kW photovoltaic system, 2011 Green Community status as a town, and participation in the initial 2008 Energy Star Challenge.
Smith said resident participation at the solar fair last June at the Simonian Center, as well as current involvement in the Mass Solarize program, in conjunction with the town of Millbury, where hundreds of residents are asking for a free home evaluation to see if solar panels are feasible, all contributed to the award.
Smith noted in a presentation to the committee that the town is also currently out to bid on placing solar panels on the Manchaug and Wilkinsonville fire stations, as well as the sewer treatment plant, on top of a master plan initiative to incorporate solar panels into the roof of all new town buildings.
The feasibility of a hydro power plant study at Manchaug Dam is also underway, according to Smith.
“We are currently in the planning process to construct a new highway facility and police facility and both of those designs will have solar panels on their roofs,” he stated. “It is actually easier to design the roofs with South facing exposure before they’re actually built.”
The town is hopeful that the award, based on a modern and green approach, will have an impact on potential businesses looking at moving into town in the near future.
“For businesses, I think this award shows that, as a town, we are free thinkers and open to new technologies and ways of thinking,” said Hager. “I think people will see his award and think of Sutton as more than just a little farming and mill community a few towns south of Worcester.”
What started as a look into reducing energy consumption via exit signs, light bulbs, and eliminating the soda machine in town hall to save money, has grown into a full-out town push to become as energy efficient as possible.
Hager said the long-term effects of even simple energy-conscious decisions can have monumental impacts.
“Reducing the carbon footprint and helping save costs for the town might sound as simple as turning off the lights, but when you consider all the [energy initiatives] of the town, that money can help save jobs in the long run.”