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Bright idea in Nahant: Town needs state designation for eco-friendly projects

NAHANT — The plan is to switch to LED streetlights, lights that turn off when a room is empty at the Johnson Elementary School, and add energy-efficiency requirements for new construction. But first, the town needs a state designation.

A group of a dozen volunteers has been meeting biweekly to find ways to meet the criteria for the state’s Green Communities designation in hopes of joining more than 200 cities and towns that already qualify for grant money for eco-friendly projects.

The deadline for the next round of designations is in October, but chairwoman Diane Monteith said the town has a lot to do to prepare.

“The highest energy user is the Johnson School, so we’re focusing on the Johnson School and working with National Grid to obtain complete building energy audits,” said Monteith, who spent 25 years in the energy business in New Hampshire before retiring to Nahant two years ago. “Our goal is to reduce the baseline energy by 20 percent over five years.”

Residents can expect lighting upgrades at the Johnson Elementary School that include a transition to LED lightbulbs, and technology that detects an empty hallway or gymnasium and automatically turns off the light.

Converting the town’s streetlights to LED bulbs, a project expected to cost more than $200,000, is the group’s second priority.

The Green Communities Division helps Massachusetts cities and towns find clean energy solutions that reduce long-term energy costs and strengthen local economies. Eligible cities and towns receive technical and financial support for initiatives to improve energy efficiency and increase the use of renewable energy in public buildings, facilities, and schools.

Switching to LED lights “saves 60 percent of energy,” said Monteith. “And it lasts longer and requires less maintenance.Swampscott and many other surrounding communities have successfully done this.”

Malden, Medford, Revere, Saugus, and Swampscott are among 210 cities and towns to be designated as Green Communities by the state, more than half the communities in  the state. They have received more than $85 million in grant funding since 2010.

Revere has received $456,000 for energy conservation measures at City Hall, the Senior Center, and the Youth Center, including pipe and attic insulation, weather sealing, and controls on vending machines. The money also helped the city purchase four electric vehicles and install two charging stations.

Similarly, Saugus has received more than $451,000 for projects including the installation of an electric car charging station, the purchase of two electric cars, and lighting upgrades at Veterans Memorial Elementary School and Belmonte Middle School, and toward energy conservation measures in town buildings, including the Public Safety Building and the Saugus Public Library.

Swampscott has received more than $800,000 since 2010 for a complete, town-wide LED streetlight conversion, and LED lighting in the Clarke School, Swampscott High School, Swampscott Public Library, the police station, and Town Hall, in addition to other energy-saving initiatives.

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