When the town of Lancaster, Mass. discovered that energy was the second largest non-personnel percentage of their budget, they knew something must be done to become more efficient and reduce costs.

"If all new revenue gets eaten up by your traditional budgetary growth, you're really never in a position to catch up on capital projects," says Orlando Pacheco, town administrator of Lancaster.



Now as one of 35 recently designated "green communities" in Massachusetts, Lancaster has not only made it a priority to invest in energy efficiency but has learned how to tackle a wide variety of projects by combining funds.

"Ultimately it's a matter of implementing the highest performance standards that we possibly can," Pacheco says. "We understand it's an investment. We're trying to find grant programs that are the most suitable and show quick paybacks."

One such grant was awarded by the state's Department of Energy Resources, which made $8.1 million available to cities and towns that met the criteria of the Green Communities Grant Program. By combining this $141,000 grant with an $85,000 Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG), Lancaster is now able to take on several projects to reduce energy use and costs.

According to Pacheco, the "granddaddy" of these projects is the proposed solar array project, which would install a photovoltaic solar energy system at the city's landfill. Though the system which could be as large as 1 MW is still in the planning stage, it is estimated to produce 980,335 kWh annually and save $167,637 in utility costs in the first year. The town is seeking matching funds before continuing with the project.

In addition, there are plans to reduce energy use in buildings and municipalities across the town. "We've been doing a lot of other smaller projects that we think are going to have some large scale impacts," Pacheco says.

For example, the town is using the EECBG funding to upgrade the library boiler, replace a boiler in one of the fire stations and overhaul the heating system in the police station. Pacheco says these heating improvements will be installed before the start of winter.

Using the Green Communities Grant, Lancaster will also be installing a variety of technologies including a 7 kW solar power system on the police station roof, KVAR electromagnetic control systems at municipal water well pumps and Fitch Fuel Catalysts at many of the town's boilers.

The KVAR systems are estimated to reduce power bill costs for the well pumps by about $7,137 per year. At a total cost of about $6,936, this means the return on investment would be less than one year.  These savings are especially significant because the pumps account for the largest amount of electricity in terms of kilowatt-hours used.

The Fitch Fuel catalysts will be installed to help with efficiency through improved combustion. The $5,246 catalysts will save the city about $2,775 per year, meaning the costs will be paid off by savings in less than two years.

These figures were provided by Green Power Management, Lancaster's consultant for the energy efficiency projects.