Truro has become the second town on Cape Cod to qualify for a state grant meant to encourage renewable energy use, but for some local towns, the potential cost of a “green” designation is a turnoff.
In 2008, Gov. Deval Patrick signed the Green Communities Act, which distributes grants to encourage cities and towns to use less energy in municipal buildings and vehicles. It also aims to set higher energy-use standards for new construction.
Since the act was signed, 74 of Massachusetts’ 351 towns and cities have become Green Communities, including Mashpee in 2010 and Truro last month. Truro can now apply for a $141,200 grant.
But the potential cost and zoning requirements to qualify are causing some other towns to shy away.
Orleans Town Planner George Meservey said the town has given it consideration, but for now the cons outweigh the pros.
To qualify, municipalities must: ensure that local zoning laws allow renewable energy projects as a right and that no extraordinary permitting hurdles exist for such projects; assess current municipal energy use and develop a program to reduce it by 20 percent within five years; agree to purchase, within reason, fuel-efficient vehicles for municipal use; and require new residential construction over 3,000 square feet and all new commercial and industrial construction to adhere to the state’s alternative, energy-saving building code.
Like Orleans, Harwich and Yarmouth worry about the effects of further amending the building code, town officials said.
Eastham town officials worry, too, that the program endorses construction of wind turbines and solar facilities as a matter of right, Eastham Town Administrator Sheila Vanderhoef said.
Bourne officials have discussed the program and are implementing some concepts of the Green Communities program, but are not ready to leap in fully, Town Planner Coreen Moore said.
In Wellfleet, selectmen dropped Green Community articles from a town meeting warrant in April but may support them at a fall town meeting given more public outreach and education, Assistant Town Administrator Rex Peterson said.
“We also have some very vocal energy folks and they don’t want us to do it,” Peterson said. “They feel the town will lose control.”
As with Mashpee and Truro, the towns of Barnstable, Dennis, Falmouth, Provincetown and Sandwich support the measure and are moving toward a Green Community designation, town officials said.
“We have been slowly making progress toward all the criteria that would enable us to submit an application,” Sandwich Assistant Town Administrator Douglas Lapp said. Brewster officials are interested but have not had time to look into the specifics, Town Administrator Charles Sumner said.
Chatham has just begun to look at the program, energy committee chairman Peter Cocolis said.
Mashpee initially planned to spend its $170,124 grant on energy efficiency upgrades at town hall, the police department and an elementary school, and to hire an engineering firm, state records show. But the town narrowed its plans to the police department after bids came in higher than expected, according to Town Administrator Joyce Mason. Delays resulted when the grant paperwork needed to be amended and approved by the state, she said.
“We haven’t reaped the benefit as of yet,” she said.
Truro officials plan to use the grant to install new technology on police cruisers that turns engines off when the cars are idling but then restarts the engines to recharge batteries, energy committee chairman Brian Boyle said. The money also will fund upgrades to the elementary school, a new heating system at the police and fire department and design and engineering studies for a solar panel installation on town land, Boyle said.
Truro voters adopted five warrant articles at the April 26 town meeting to allow the Green Community application to go forward.
Boyle estimated the cost of adding energy-efficient standards to a new home, in adherence with the Green Community standards, would be a 1 percent increase in construction costs. Rebates could help offset that extra expense.