WINCHESTER - A cold and snowy night didn’t stop the Select Board from meeting (minus members Michael Bettencourt and Amy Shapiro who phoned in) or members of the energy community from attending and giving an energy report.
Energy Conservation Coordinator Susan McPhee spoke about solar and WinPower, two of the more important aspects of the town’s attempt to both save money and reduce its carbon footprint.
She said solar arrays are up at the high school, then later added how all new buildings should include solar-ready roofs.
About WinPower, the town’s energy program designed to save residents and businesses money by partnering with other communities to bundle costs, as well as increase the share of renewable “green” energy in Winchester’s electricity supply, McPhee said the town’s first contract ends this month. Nearly 6,000 residents have joined WinPower since it started in July of 2017 with a few hundred more going with WinPower100, which is 100 percent renewable energy.
When the next contract begins, McPhee told the board WinPower residents would save over Eversource by a small amount; however, residents and business owners will see a benefit in that WinPower’s contract lasts for 35 months while Eversource’s only lasts six months. This means Eversource’s rates change every six months and WinPower customers get nearly three years of steady, unchanging rates.
WinPower will also increase its renewable energy by 10 percent next year. McPhee informed the board the energy isn’t just renewable, it’s also local. Those on WinPower100, with 100 percent renewable energy, do pay slightly more than regular WinPower customers per kilowatt hour.
For residents who want to switch to WinPower100, or simply join WinPower, McPhee suggested calling Dynergy, the town’s energy supplier, at 866-220-5696, or visiting the town’s website at www.winpowerma.com. Those with WinPower still receive their energy bills from Eversource, so if you’re switching make sure to have your Eversource account number ready.
Other energy issues
McPhee spoke about the town being a Green Community, which it has been since 2010, and all the buildings that contribute to the town’s energy use. Both Winchester High School and McCall Middle School are the town’s biggest energy users, but they also both use the energy very efficiently.
On the flip side, Lynch and Muraco are the least energy efficient buildings, which is one reason the town wants to partner with the Massachusetts School Building Authority to renovate or rebuild both buildings. (Even though WHS is much larger than Lynch, the building is one-third less energy intense.)
Moving forward, the town hopes to emulate other, new elementary schools when and if they rebuild or renovate Lynch and Muraco by being as low energy as possible, perhaps by using ground source heat pumps (though not now, since it’s not financially feasible).
For other buildings, the Recreation Department building and Town Hall need new boilers while the Public Safety Building has been a constant challenge, McPhee said, because it’s very energy intense (it’s open 24/7).
Fritzie Nace, a co-coach for HeartSmart, discussed the program, which is a community-based education and group purchasing program for clean heating and cooling technologies, and the town’s partnership with Arlington. She said the two town’s have been the most successful in Massachusetts to date.
Sign ups up to join HeatSmart ended back in October and contract deadlines are Jan. 31, 2020. So far, since it started, 117 people had a site visit and 32 signed a contract (21 for air source, seven for solar/hot water and four for ground source). 36 percent of residents have closed after receiving a quote.
“People are excited and ready to make the change,” Nace exclaimed.
This year, the town has held open houses and Meet the Installer events. Nace did suggest some grant money may still be available.
“The climate is changing and these are the technologies of the future,” McPhee commented, adding how even Wright-Locke Farm is moving forward by changing from oil in the 1827 Barn and removing old burners.