News & Press


Valley gets more green: $4.2 million in stimulus funding goes to energy-efficiency projects

11/05/2010

By NOAH HOFFENBERG

Staff Writer

Three western Massachusetts projects are among 11 across the state in line for $16.5 million in federal stimulus money officials say will create 485 jobs.

The local projects - receiving $4.2 million of the funding - include the green renovation of a historic home in Ashfield and Conway, the addition of wood-pellet heating systems to a Valley oil company's repertoire and the rehab of a vacant Springfield mill building.

These projects, according to Ian Bowles, Energy and Environmental Affairs secretary, and Philip Giudice, commissioner of state Department of Energy Resources, demonstrate cutting-edge ways of saving energy costs in Bay State buildings.

The projects will also serve as models on how to get deep energy savings, Giudice said, up to 50 and 70 percent, from more traditional sources of energy. The projects will be launched between now and June.

Sandri Oil

The Sandri Companies, receiving $3.2 million, will begin something virtually unheard of for an oil company: They'll be switching some of their oil furnace users over to wood pellet boilers.

Sandri is planning on installing these more environmentally friendly boilers at several institutional sites throughout the Pioneer Valley, including at Greenfield Community College and the Greenfield Fire Department.

Additionally, Sandri will discount energy audits for some residential customers, provide incentives to act on audits and offer rebates for the green boilers.

Sandri will also be shifting its resources to become a wood pellet distributor in the area.

The Center for Ecological Technology

Meanwhile, the Center for Ecological Technology - a nonprofit that "promotes practical solutions to environmental challenges" - will use its $900,000 in stimulus money to reuse and rehab a 100-year-old mill building at 83 Warwick St. in Springfield, formerly Kavanaugh's Furniture.

The mill will then house a reuse- and recycle-based home improvement business.

The building will receive a "Deep Energy Retrofit," according to the state, which consists of an intense insulation wrap. The insulation was donated by MassMutual Insurance, according to John Grossman, manager of marketing and sales of the ReStore Home Improvement Center, the incoming tenant.

The CET project will also use air-to-air heat pumps and small, targeted high-efficiency systems in the place of a central heating system.

"This opportunity to take on this mill building is just phenomenal.

Instead

of throwing things into the landfill, they're getting it reused and put into new buildings, and as we renovate," said Giudice. "They're going to be a real demonstration of energy efficiency. That old classic brick building will be a strong thermal mass within the walls."

Grossman said the company - a CET affiliate that accepts donations of unwanted home improvement materials and sells them to the public at discount prices - will move in next summer. In addition to the stimulus funds, the company has been running a capital campaign to move into and rehab the mill, which will also require some financing, Grossman said.

Bullitt Reservation

In Ashfield and Conway, the Trustees of Reservations has received $100,000 to perform an energy retrofit at the historic property on the Bullitt Reservation.

The 18th-century Bullitt house - the Trustees' latest acquisition - will serve as the headquarters of the Highland Communities Initiative and the Hilltown Land Trust as early as November. The groups held a grand opening Saturday.

The house, through energy-efficiency measures, will become a certified "passive house" that uses little-to-no fossil fuels for heat or power.

"We've got a lot of old buildings all around the state. The issue is how do you make them energy efficient and still pay homage to and honor the historic aspects of those buildings," said Giudice. Bringing in energy-efficiency experts to work on "these renovations is a fantastic opportunity. And they'll still expect it to reduce the energy consumption by 50 percent. It's not just making small tweaks, and it's not just running a little caulk stream around the outside of a window. It's really figuring out ways to drive energy consumption down significantly."

The original request for proposals for the High Performance Building program drew 144 respondents, seeking about $250 million in stimulus aid, according to the state. Because of the response, the state boosted its $15 million funding pool to $16.25 million. The Department of Energy Resources oversees about $80 million of stimulus funding, said Giudice.

The 11 projects greenlighted by the state were chosen because of their expected ability to create jobs, share costs and improve the environment in the commonwealth.

The state expects these so-called High Performance Buildings to lead the way for widespread building energy improvement projects in the state, beyond what existing state- and utility-run efficiency programs can accomplish.




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