Wind farm is one “˜green’ idea
By Nick Kotsopoulos Telegram & Gazette Staff
WORCESTER– While the leaves on the trees will soon be turning colors with the approach of fall, the City Council is becoming decidedly more “green.”
City councilors seem to have taken a greater interest of late in exploring ways to reduce energy costs through the use of alternative and renewable energy sources.
They say the time has come for the city to get better control over its energy costs by embarking on an aggressive energy plan that is also environmentally friendly.
“We’ve given this issue lip service for a long time,” said District 5 Councilor Frederick C. Rushton. “But given the rising energy costs everyone has had to deal with during the past year and the great uncertainty about our energy picture in the future, now is the time to take a serious look at using alternative energy sources. We cannot afford not to.”
At its meeting Tuesday night, the council discussed three initiatives broached by councilors on energy-related issues.
District 2 Councilor Philip P. Palmieri and District 3 Councilor Paul P. Clancy Jr. co-sponsored an order requesting City Manager Michael V. O’Brien to consider the feasibility of establishing a wind farm on city-owned property, such as at a reservoir, watershed property or Worcester Regional Airport, as a way to help offset rising municipal energy costs.
Mr. Palmieri said windmills could also be placed on some school sites to provide for their energy needs.
He said wind farms would not only enable the municipal government to reduce its energy costs, but they could also generate a significant amount of money for the city through the sale of electricity to energy providers.
“We just can’t talk about (energy costs) any more,” Mr. Palmieri said. “We need to do something that will make a difference, both financially and in terms of improving our environment. The city has properties where we can establish renewable energy programs like wind farms.
“A couple of years ago, a lot of people may not have paid much attention to this,” he said. “But the time has come to get serious about this. We’re no longer whistling in the wind on this. We need to find out what is financially feasible and what could work. Something like this could also put Worcester on the map.”
The idea of putting a wind farm at the airport to generate electricity is not new.
Two years ago, Lance McKee, a local resident, urged city officials to consider a wind farm as part of the master plan being done for the airport. He said city leaders must weigh every option and think about strategies to cope with a worldwide energy crisis that many experts predict will occur when oil and gas production begin to decline.
Councilor-at-Large Joseph M. Petty said Mr. McKee’s idea resonates even more today, given all that has happened to energy costs the past couple of years. He said the idea of establishing wind farms, whether at the airport or on other city property, can no longer be dismissed out of hand.
As part of Tuesday night’s council meeting, Mr. Rushton also called on Mayor Timothy P. Murray to establish an ad hoc committee, made up of members of the City Council Municipal Operations Committee and the School Committee Standing Committee on School Plant, to consider a combined approach to solving the complex problem of energy use and affordability when it comes to municipal buildings.
He said a number of municipal and public school buildings are energy-inefficient, costing the city hundreds of thousands of dollars to heat and light them.
Mr. Rushton said the city also needs to look at its vehicle fleet, with an eye toward purchasing more hybrid cars and vehicles that can run on alternative fuels, such as ethanol.
“We definitely need a “˜get real’ environmental action plan that focuses on the use of alternative and renewable energy sources in the daily operations of the city government,” he said. “We don’t need a plan, we need an action plan.”
The mayor has pointed out that the School Department spends $600,000 a year to cover its electricity costs just at South High Community School. He has been a strong advocate of utilizing renewable energy sources at some of the city’s larger public projects, such as the new vocational school and the North High replacement school to be constructed.
Councilor-at-Large Konstantina B. Lukes, meanwhile, has been a strong advocate of “green build” principles for city projects and private ones, such as the $563 million CitySquare downtown redevelopment project. Green build, one of the latest trends in the construction industry, employs techniques that improve energy, water and resource efficiency.
“No one city councilor is carrying the banner on this issue,” Mr. Rushton said. “Several members of the council have come up with ideas on this and we are all willing to work together on this to make Worcester a better city for all.”
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