FITCHBURG – The Montachusett Regional Planning Commission is developing a regional energy plan to forecast which types of green energy the region will use in the future and how that will affect its consumption of traditional fuel sources.
“We don’t have one and it’s such an important topic,” said commission Planning and Development Director John Hume. “Energy is an issue that’s not going to go away for some time.”
The energy plan will be used to make recommendations for the 22 communities the commission serves, on ways to reduce usage of electricity and gasoline as well as non-electric forms of energy used for heating.
The U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration is providing a $66,000 grant for the regional plan that is due by Oct. 1, Hume said.
The plan will include an inventory of renewable energy such as wind turbines, photovoltaic solar panels, geothermal and biomass, Hume said.
“We’re going to look at all the projects going on now and map them out,” he said.
The commission plans to showcase the regional energy plan and survey at the American Planning Association National Conference in Boston in April.
“We are getting all that information together now,” said Jennifer Siciliano, a regional planner with the commission.
The project includes an energy model simulation in order to forecast the needs of the area for the next five, 10 and 20 years, Hume said.
Four students from
Worcester Polytechnic Institute are working on the simulation model under their associate professor of economics Michael Radzicki.
The forecast will look at multiple scenarios that would affect long-range consumption.
That will include such factors as increasing the number of renewable energy sources such as wind turbines and even increased usage of electric cars.
Town and city officials will be able to use the information for their energy consumption planning.
Lunenburg and Lancaster are working on developing solar farms which will be factors in the region’s energy consumption, Eaton said.
A number of wind turbines have been built in North Central Massachusetts recently, he said.
There were no more than two wind turbines in the region five years ago but there are about eight now, said Glenn Eaton, the commission’s executive director.
“Of all those communities … many are addressing the issue of renewable energy facilities permitting process,” he said.
He compared it to the learning curve around issuing building permits for cell towers when they first came on the scene a number of years ago.
Communities had difficulty establishing bylaws and regulations for the towers, Eaton said.
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