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Marion energy commitee shifts focus

First it was the Wind Turbine Committee, then the Marion Alternative Energy Committee. But now the Marion group dedicated to investigating alternative energy sources has changed its name again. This time, it will be called the Marion Energy Management Committee – and just as important, the committee will grow from five to seven members.

In the beginning, about seven years ago, Marion officials created the Wind Turbine Committee after working jointly with neighboring towns to identify locations suitable for wind turbines. In particular, the town worked with Mattapoisett and Rochester to investigate Old Rochester Regional as a potential site and although that possibility remains on the table, initial studies at the time showed insufficient wind to proceed. The town decided to then form its own committee dedicated to locating renewable energy sources to meet municipal needs.

Years later, the committee decided to expand its scope to other renewable energy sources. Wind energy still remained a priority, as recently the Great Hill property was investigated as a possible site for a new wind turbine. However, due to outcry from neighbors – dozens of whom attended committee meetings to halt the project – the project was effectively abandoned.

“It was becoming clear that it would not be easy sell. It would require many years to go through legal proceedings,” David Pierce, Marion Energy Management Committee chairman, said of the ordeal.

During the Great Hill wind turbine meeting, one attendee suggested that the committee not only focus on harnessing new energy sources but look at managing energy use as a whole. The idea took hold, leading to the latest name change: Marion Energy Management Committee.

“Our thrust had always been the production of energy. But we thought perhaps we are overlooking the important consideration of energy conservation, and the need to reduce energy dependence as we are looking at energy production,” Mr. Pierce said. He said while the appointed group has prioritized finding energy sources to run the town of Marion, “the feeling had been running strong” to expand its focus to offer energy-saving suggestions to homeowners as well.

To help with the broadened focus and to handle the high volume of work the committee deals with, Mr. Pierce said the decision was made to expand the committee membership from five to seven.

“The amount of work generated for our committee has been staggering and two of our members have been working practically day and night,” he said, speaking in particular of members Bill Saltonstall and Norm Hills.

“The feeling was that we needed very talented individuals to help spread our load and go in other directions as it is appropriate,” he said.

Town Administrator Paul Dawson will soon advertise for “people of considerable ability and background” to come forward with a letter of interest to join the committee. Mr. Pierce said that these appointments, which require a public meeting and final vote by the Selectmen, may take place this month.

“We have a lot of work to do,” he said.

Interestingly, one of the top projects is re-evaluating ORR’s potential as a wind turbine site using data from higher elevations.