• Marshfield’s town facility a model of energy efficiency
    By Eric Blaisdell
     | February 08,2013
     
    Stefan Hard / Staff Photo

    New solar panels provide electricity Tuesday to Marshfield’s Old Schoolhouse Common, in the background. The town has completed its energy-efficiency project for the multi-use community building, including installation of the solar panels, a wood pellet boiler, new lighting and improved insulation.

    MARSHFIELD — With its new solar array up and running, the town of Marshfield has reached its goal of being as energy efficient as possible.

    In the past few years, the town has taken numerous steps to make the Old Schoolhouse Common a beacon of energy efficiency. The building houses the town clerk’s office, the zoning and planning offices, the Jaquith Public Library, the historical society and the Twin Valley Senior Center.

    Rich Phillips, the chairman of the town’s energy and climate change committee, said the first improvement made was sealing leaks where heat was escaping the building. According to Phillips, that work reduced the leakage by 80 percent and shrank the amount of heating oil the building burned to 2,500 gallons per year, from 4,300 gallons.

    “The air leakage now is pretty close to what a new house would have been 10 years ago, and it’s a 1920 building,” he said.

    After that, the building’s insulation was replaced and new insulation was added to the outside of the structure to reduce energy loss through the concrete foundation, Phillips said. Those improvements reduced the building’s fuel consumption by a couple hundred gallons more.

    To save even more money and energy, the building’s old oil-burning furnace was replaced by a wood pellet furnace, which Phillips said reduced the cost of heating the building an additional 30 to 40 percent.

    The town also replaced all the lights in the Old Schoolhouse Common with new light emitting diodes, or LEDs.

    But the final piece of the puzzle was the solar array that would feed electricity to the building. Three tracking solar panels were installed early this winter, and Phillips said they have just gone online in the past two weeks.

    Phillips said the array should supply the building with two-thirds of its electric needs. In all, the town has reduced its annual energy costs by around $11,000. Those savings won’t be felt for a few years, as the town has to repay the loans it took out to pay for the wood pellet furnace, on a seven-year plan, and the solar array on a 12-year note. But thereafter, said Phillips, any savings will be “gravy.”

    For Select Board member John Warshow, saving money for the town is important, but it’s not the only reason he’s glad for the project.

    “The energy committee and Select Board feel it is important to set an example for the rest of the community and other communities that you can reduce consumption and switch over to renewable sources of energy without too much difficulty,” he said.

    Warshow said Marshfield may be one of the most energy-efficient towns in the state as he’s unaware of any other community taking so many different steps to make its central town building as “green” as possible.

    As for what’s next, Warshow said the town will be looking for funding to help residents weatherize their homes and switch to renewable energy sources.

    eric.blaisdell

    @timesargus.com

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