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GA Blog: Green

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1.24.13 Newburyport Increases Solar Energy Output

Solar panels on the roof of the Tannery Marketplace in Newburyport

According to the Daily News, Newburyport’s efforts to inspire homeowners and businesses to install solar arrays on their buildings have resulted in a 6-times increase in solar panel energy, in just six months.

Newburyport was one of 17 communities selected across the state to take part in Solarize Massachusetts, a state-run program that offered reduced costs and tax incentives for solar arrays.  So far, 40 residences and 6 commercial buildings had solar arrays installed, but because of the size of the arrays, the energy produced breaks down to about 50/50 between residential and commercial.

Power produced goes directly into the home or business’s consumption. If it produces more than is consumed, the power goes out into the electric grid, and the customer gets a credit for the energy produced.  The increase in solar energy is enough to power about 40 homes over the course of a year, according to statistics from the U.S. Energy Administration.

Read the entire Daily News article.

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9.28.11 Massachusetts Program Encourages Land Donations

The Tri-Town Transcript recently reported that Massachusetts Energy and Environment Affairs (EEA) will begin a tax credit program that will encourage landowners to donate conservation land in order to boost Governor Patrick’s land conservation agenda.  

The Massachusetts Conservation Land Tax Credit Program will offer state income tax credits in exchange to land donations. Donated land must be appraised at $100,000 or more in order to receive a state income tax credit of $50,000.  Total funding for the program is capped at $2 million.

“With more than 85,000 acres protected since the governor took office, we have made outstanding progress and we anticipate continuing that trend through this new program that rewards the generosity of private landowners across the state,” said EEA Secretary Richard K. Sullivan Jr.

The EEA will be accepting applications until October 3, and will hold a random drawing to decide the order applications will be reviewed.

For more information and guidelines for donating land see the entire Tri-Town Transcript article.

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10.4.10 English Commons “Green” Development in Topsfield

English Commons in Topsfield

According to the Tri-Town Transcript, local developers Carl and Alan Berry, are looking forward to finishing the first phase of English Commons, a 55-and-over Green housing project located off Route 1 in Topsfield.  English Commons will consist of a total of 50 homes built on a 68.5-acre plot of land, with more than two-thirds preserved for open space.

Sales prices for the homes range between $685,000 to almost $800,000.  Green aspects of the community are spread throughout the design, from lights and air conditioning to low impact drainage plans and plants that demand less water.

“This community is one of the first Low Impact Design communities in the area that conforms to the state and local LID requirements. All of the homes are Energy Star certified also,” said Sales manager Mark O’Hara about the fact that the homes use at least 15% less energy than standard homes built to the 2004 International Residential Code (IRC).

Read the entire Tri-Town Transcript article.

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6.4.10 Gloucester Birdseye Property Request for Residences, Retail, Hotel & More

The Birdseye property in Gloucester

The Gloucester Times is reporting that developer Mac Bell has filed a zoning request that would open the door to developing the 3+ acres of Fort land that include the historic, but decaying, former Birdseye factory (shown above), to a mixed-use project that could include a hotel, medical center, condominiums, windmill, assisted living apartments, a small farm and recreation hall in addition to the marine industrial uses already allowed.

Bell, who purchased the property in 2009 for $2.25 million and envisions an eco-friendly urban development, with ground-level retail markets topped by residences and bolstered by commercial work space, maintains that only with broad zoning flexibility would any project be economically viable.

According to Reporter Patrick Anderson’s article, the zoning proposal is based on the concept of "planned unit development," a progressive tool included in state zoning law meant to encourage mixed-use projects on large properties by freeing them of restrictions if they are approved as a master plan.  The zoning freedoms of the planned unit development would be contained in an overlay district with the new permissible uses (residential, medical, etc.) pasted on top of the current marine industrial zoning.

In addition to all of the possible creative uses for Birdseye, the zoning proposal would open the door to a development overview written by architect Richard Griffin of Salem, which includes a number of "green" components including "net zero energy use."  A combination of solar power, wind power and energy efficiencies such as a "solar chimney" to cool the building, would have the complex create as much electricity as it uses.  Tenants of Birdseye apartments would be able to forgo gas-guzzling cars and use a fleet of plugged-in electric vehicles provided by the development.

Read the entire Gloucester Times article.

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5.3.10 Salem Seeks “Green Community” Designation

The Salem Gazette reported that Salem, MA is looking to seek the Commonwealth’s “Green Community” designation, which could provide access to $10 million reserved for eco-friendly communities that adopt at least five core criteria specified by the Department of Energy Resources:

  1. Purchasing only fuel-efficient vehicles
  2. Adopting an expedited permit application process for energy facilities
  3. Establishing a benchmark for energy use and reducing that number by 20% within 5 years
  4. Offering siting considerations for energy manufacturing or research facilities
  5. Adopting a new Board of Building Regulations and Standards Stretch Code.

The so-called stretch code requirement –- a stricter building code for energy conservation –- may prove to be the most challenging for any municipality undertaking the process to become a Green Community.  Typically, Massachusetts building codes are established at the state level and there’s no ability for a local jurisdiction to supersede that. But in this case, the state is allowing local adoption of a stricter building code.

No city/town has yet earned the “Green Community” designation.

Read the entire Salem Gazette article.

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