Is the future of transportation “all-electric”?

By Mark Sandeen

Q: Is the future of transportation “all-electric”?
A: Certainly Elon Musk would answer that question with an emphatic Yes! He has taken 400,000 orders at $1,000 a pop for one of the most anticipated cars in the history of cars – the Tesla Model 3. He is now sitting on an $18 billion backlog after the biggest product launch of any product ever.

Q: Of course Tesla thinks the future is all-electric. What does the rest of the industry think?
A: A year ago when Norway announced that they would reduce sales of internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles to zero by 2025, most analysts thought it was kind of cute. But this summer when France and the UK both announced a ban on ICE vehicles sales by 2040, even analysts from Exxon and BP started raising their electric vehicle forecasts. OPEC quintupled their forecast for electric cars and Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimated that electric cars would reduce oil demand by 8 million barrels per day, or about 8%.

But the global automotive industry truly changed forever when China announced they would end the “production and sales of traditional energy vehicles”, starting with very aggressive near term requirements that 4% of all cars sold in 2019 and 5% by 2020 be electric. That is over one million electric vehicles per year!

Two weeks later, GM announced that they would transition the entire company to an all-electric, zero-emissions future. Volvo had already announced plans to go all-electric by 2019 and VW said it would offer electric versions of all its vehicles by 2030. Many other manufacturers have followed suit with similar commitments.


Q: Will people want to buy that many electric cars?
A: It all comes down to economics. Electric vehicles based in Massachusetts have half the fuel costs of ICE vehicles, because electric motors are 5x more efficient than gas or diesel powered engines. And electric vehicle maintenance costs are also far, far lower. An ICE vehicle has 2,000 moving parts that need regular maintenance. An electric vehicle has just 20 moving parts. The largest maintenance cost for electric cars is replacing the tires. Tesla provides an 8-year, unlimited mileage warranty on the battery and drive unit.

Q: That’s great, but who can afford an electric car?
A: A friend of mine just bought a 238-mile range all-electric Chevy Bolt for $21,500. She took advantage of an electric car-buying program from Mass Energy called Drive Green. They find the best electric car deals in the area and eliminate your need to negotiate with the dealer. You just arrive with a check and pick up the car! That’s right, you can buy an electric car for around the average cost of a low-end ICE vehicle and without any dealer hassles.
Plus electric car prices are falling rapidly as battery costs decline. By 2021 all-electric cars will cost less than comparable ICE cars. And since the operating costs are already so much lower for an electric car, once the upfront price is lower, the real question will be – who can afford not to drive an electric car?

Q: What’s it like driving an electric car?
A: Electric car owners love their cars. It is an absolutely amazing driving experience. It is hard to overstate what a joy it is to drive in a quiet, vibration-free vehicle with smooth, instantaneous performance available at any speed. Handling is great. The car just sticks to the road due to the battery’s low center of gravity. And electric cars are safe cars – with no engine up front taking up valuable crumple zone space plus the battery’s stiff structure adding significant protection, electric cars earn the highest safety ratings. 98% of electric car owners say they will never buy another gas car!

Q: But how long does it take to charge?
A: Ten seconds. That’s all the time it takes to plug in after you arrive home. I’ve never needed to charge the car anywhere besides home – except when I’m on an overnight trip. And even then, a Chevy Bolt or Tesla can easily drive from Lexington to Burlington, VT or NYC without stopping to charge. On a recent trip to Washington DC, we needed to charge for 50 minutes along the way. And who wouldn’t appreciate a chance to stretch their legs and have some lunch on a 7 ½ hour drive?

Let me ask you a question. How long do you spend every week driving to gas stations and standing in the heat or cold, in the wind, rain or snow, breathing fumes while you are pumping gas? It is wonderful waking up every morning knowing that the car is fully charged. No need to stop at the gas station on the way to work or your first appointment of the day. I saw a T-shirt that said, “I miss gas stations – said no EV driver ever.”

 

Mark Sandeen is the chair of the Sustainable Lexington Committee

 

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Reducing greenhouse gas emissions

Q: The Supreme Judicial Court ruled last year that Massachusetts was not doing enough to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to maintain a livable climate. What steps are necessary to get back on track?
A: In response, Gov. Baker’s Department of Environmental Protection issued new clean air regulations that would require utilities to purchase generation credits from zero-carbon sources – starting at 16% in 2018 and increasing to 80% by 2050.
The first big step along that path was taken last year under the Omnibus energy bill that requires utilities to purchase 35% of their power from hydro and wind sources.
Our grid is now going to be greening a lot faster than we had previously expected when these regulations take effect.
Q: What can we do here in Lexington?
A: 97% of Lexington’s greenhouse gas emissions come from burning fossil fuels to produce our electricity, heat our buildings, power our vehicles, and produce our food. 36% of those emissions come from producing our electricity, 30% from heating our buildings, 23% from transportation, and 10% is related to the food we eat.
We can start by switching our oil and natural gas heating systems for our homes, offices, and schools to the latest highly efficient and low-cost air source heat pumps. The latest heat pumps can provide more than 3 kWh of heat for every kWh of electricity used.
Q: Are we designing the new Hastings School to be capable of achieving zero emissions?
A: We are currently considering two designs – one design uses a natural gas boiler to provide heat and one uses heat pumps. If we choose to move forward with a natural gas boiler – we will be locking in fossil fuel emissions to heat Hastings School for the next 60 years. With heat pumps, we can reduce our emissions to zero by switching to renewable electricity. In addition, the initial cost of going with the heat pump design will be $600K less than the natural gas boiler and our energy costs will also be about 30% lower.
If you care about this decision – I encourage you to come to the Board of Selectmen meeting on February 27th where the Board will make their recommendation.

Natural gas flaring seen from space.

Q: What other benefits would we see with a heat pump design?
A: The heat pump design would protect our students and staff from breathing the air pollution created by burning fossil fuels on site. Heat pumps will directly improve the health and cognitive performance of our students and staff because they will be breathing cleaner air.  An MIT study found that 1,775 Massachusetts residents die each year from premature mortality due to the air pollution created by burning fossil fuels to heat our buildings.
Second, we should look at the health and global warming impacts of continuing our over dependence on natural gas. The CDC has determined that on the job fatality rates for oil and gas workers is 7 times higher than for typical workers. Researchers from University of Columbia and University of Pennsylvania have found that Pennsylvania residents who live near natural gas fracking sites are 27% more likely to suffer from severe heart disease, cancer and neurological disorders. Fracking sites produce 280 billion gallons of toxic wastewater each year. The Wall Street Journal found that 15 million people in the US now live within one mile of a fracking site.
Recent studies have determined that the leakage rate at natural gas drilling sites is between 4 and 9%. A leakage rate of 3% makes the global warming potential of natural gas worse than using coal to produce our electricity.
Then there is the out and out waste of natural gas flaring. Gas flares at natural gas fracking sites can be seen from space – like city lights. National Geographic reported that the gas lost to flaring could have powered all the homes in Chicago for a year.
Finally we need to consider the cost of delivering natural gas. Over the past 20 years, we’ve had 680 people die, 2,646 people injured, and $1.4 billion in property damage from natural gas pipeline explosions in the US.
Q: What kind of world would you want for your kids?
A: If we wouldn’t want our kids to experience these negative effects, why would we want anyone’s kids to suffer from our continued over dependence on natural gas.
Send your sustainability questions to questions@sustainablelexington.org. We look forward to hearing from you.


Mark Sandeen is the chair
of the Sustainable Lexington Committee

Send your sustainability questions to questions@sustainablelexington.org. We look forward to hearing from you.

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What About the Natural Gas Pipeline in Massachusetts?

All Things SustainableBy Mark Sandeen

Mark Sandeen is the chair of the Sustainable Lexington Committee

Mark Sandeen is the chair
of the Sustainable Lexington Committee

Q: I understand we are considering building a new natural gas pipeline in Massachusetts. Is building a new pipeline critical to our energy future?

A: A lot of folks thought so last year. We saw some natural gas price spikes when demand jumped during a couple of cold snaps. The utilities predicted more of the same this winter, but a funny thing happened. Even though we had a much colder winter, colder than we’ve seen in over three decades, we didn’t have any problems meeting demand.

How is that possible? You may have heard that Massachusetts is leading the nation in energy efficiency for 4 years in a row now. Our energy efficiency programs have reduced electricity demand by 2 million megawatt hours (MWh) in the last two years. We’ve also added another 700,000 MWh in new solar generation. That’s enough electricity for over 360,000 Massachusetts homes. And we are just getting started.

But the utilities are asking us to bet that we’ll stop investing in energy efficiency, solar power adoption will slow, and we’ll never get any wind turbines built. Who wins if we make that bet? Let’s just say the utilities like the guaranteed return on investment that comes from building a $3 billion pipeline.

What happens if we build a pipeline and no one comes? We would all end up paying for the pipeline whether it is needed or not.

Q: Would it be better to upgrade our existing pipelines? I heard that our old pipelines have a lot of leaks.

A: That is a very good idea. Nathan Phillips at BU has found that our local pipelines are leaking a huge amount of natural gas, almost 3% of our natural gas. Those leaks are mostly methane and methane is an extremely strong greenhouse gas – 86 times stronger than carbon dioxide over 20 years. Those methane leaks alone are responsible for 10% of our greenhouse gas emissions in Lexington. On top of that, plugging those leaks would provide enough natural gas to heat 150,000 homes and would reduce the need for a new pipeline. Who pays for those leaks today? We do. The utilities pass those costs on to their customers.

Q: Are there other costs associated with natural gas?

A: According to the Energy Information Agency, the US has increased the amount of energy required to transport natural gas via pipelines by 50% over the last decade.

The total amount of energy used by natural gas pipelines is now about 264 million MWh a year. To put that into perspective – that is slightly more than the total amount of electricity consumed in California and about 5 times more than all the electricity used in Massachusetts each year.

But that is small potatoes compared to the 57% to 67% of natural gas energy that is wasted once it gets to a power plant. According to the EIA, only 33% to 43% of the energy in natural gas is actually converted into electricity and makes it on to the power grid. The remaining energy goes up the cooling tower as waste heat.

Our electricity grid loses another 8% in transmission and distribution line losses along the way to our homes and businesses. This highlights a huge benefit of solar energy, every kWh of electricity produced directly at the point of consumption eliminates all those losses.

We could eliminate one California’s worth of electricity consumption, just in pipeline energy costs alone, by switching to renewable energy sources like wind, hydro, and solar. And we wouldn’t have to pay for a $3 billion dollar pipeline that won’t be needed in an increasingly energy efficient but still warming world.

 


 

Send your sustainability questions to questions@sustainablelexington.org. THANK YOU!

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Record Setting Snowfall!

By Mark Sandeen

Q: Is anyone else wondering what the heck is going on with our weather this winter? Was our record setting snowfall related to climate change?

A: If you suspected that we have been smashing records this winter, you would be right. As I write this, we are less than 2 inches away from setting the all time annual snowfall record in Boston. We had the snowiest January in history, and the snowiest 7-day period in history, with over 40 inches of snow from January 27th – February 2nd. That is 8 inches more than the previous 7-day snowfall record. We aren’t just breaking records; we are blowing them to smithereens. So what is happening?

The NOAA image below, taken when these storms started, shows that the ocean temperature off the east coast surrounding Boston was 2 degrees warmer than normal for this time of year. And we know that warmth pumps more moisture in the air, in this case about 10% more moisture than normal. The melting arctic ice is also affecting the jet stream, which is pulling abnormally cold air down from the arctic; and that cold air lingers longer due to the weakening jet stream. So when you combine the moist warm air rising above the ocean with the cold arctic air being pulled down from the North, you get massive snowstorms that last a lot longer than they used to.

NOAA Ocean Temp anomaly-638x507Scientists suggest that only about half of the ocean temperature rise this year can be attributed to climate change. So that record breaking 40-inch storm, might have only been 20 inches without climate change.

If you’ve been thinking these storms are coming more frequently, you’d be correct. We’ve broken the all time extreme winter weather snowfall record 4 times in the last 10 years. And if you feel like we’ve been singled out for special treatment, you would be right. New England is seeing the largest increase in extreme weather events in the country; with a 71% increase in extreme weather events.

How many once in a hundred year events can we have in 5 years? I count 6. The spring floods of 2010, Hurricane Irene, Hurricane Sandy, Snow October, the Blizzard of 2013 and now the 2015 blizzard – that made the Blizzard of 2013 look small…

Q: I understand that the Board of Selectmen unanimously approved moving forward with the Hartwell Solar project. What are the details of that project?

A: The Board of Selectmen approved a 2.25 MW solar project, which will provide about 31% of the Town’s electricity and reduce our CO2 emissions by 68 million pounds over the life of the project. That is enough solar electricity to supply 375 average homes or the equivalent emissions reduction of eliminating 86 million miles of driving.

On top of that, we expect the solar energy system to generate $14.7 million in revenue for the Town, while allowing the Town to continue all existing operations at the site. When combined with our rooftop solar project that went live in December, we expect our solar arrays will be generating 45% of the Town’s electricity and earning the Town $20 million over the next 25 years.

This is a large project that will require significant changes in the operations of the site and probably take close to a year before it is generating power.

I want to express my thanks to everyone involved, and especially to Bill Hadley and the Department of Public Works staff who worked so hard to make this possible.

 

Mark Sandeen is the chair of the Sustainable Lexington Committee

Mark Sandeen is the chair
of the Sustainable Lexington Committee

Sustainable Lexington is a Town committee appointed by the Board of Selectmen
to enhance Lexington’s long-term sustainability and resilience
in response to environmental resource and energy challenges.
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All Things Sustainable

Mark Sandeen is the chair of the Sustainable Lexington Committee

Mark Sandeen is the chair
of the Sustainable Lexington Committee

 

All Things Sustainable

 

 

 

 

 

By Mark Sandeen

Question

Over 400,000 people marched in New York City demanding action on climate change. What is next?

Answer

An amazingly diverse group of people walked in the People’s Climate March in New York City because we are just beginning to realize as a society how urgent it is that we take rapid action to protect the future of our civilization and human life on this planet.

Recent studies show that if we want to maintain a livable climate, there is a limit to the amount of fossil fuels we can burn. And at our current pace, we will hit that limit in just 30 years. That is a pretty sobering thought. The implications are clear – we will need to transition to a 100% clean energy, zero emissions economy in the next 30 years.

Emissions will need to peak soon and begin falling rapidly if we are to avoid catastrophic and irreversible consequences. The investments we make over the next 15 years will determine the future of the world’s climate.

The good news is that this transition is not only technically feasible, but will save us money, strengthen our economy, and provide tremendous health benefits. We have an aging fleet of power plants that were put in place in the 50’s and 60’s and now need to be replaced. We can choose to replace them with more fossil fuel plants and lock our emissions in for the next 50 or 60 years. Or we can make the choice to switch to clean energy power systems – now, today. We have excellent and viable alternatives.

We can put solar panels on our rooftops, parking lots, and landfills. And start driving electric cars. We can build wind turbines and use hydro to fill in the gaps. We can design our new buildings so they use far less energy and unlock the energy savings in our existing buildings. Every dollar invested in energy efficiency yields $4 in energy savings – up to $2 trillion dollars in savings from our commercial buildings alone.

If we choose to replace our aging fossil fuel power plants with renewable replacements and energy efficiency investments, the slightly higher upfront costs will be more than offset by the savings from our reduced fuel costs. And every dollar we spend on a clean energy future is a dollar that stays in our local economy.

We marched in New York City because we are the first generation to feel the effects of climate change and the last generation that can do anything about it. It is time to get to work.

Question

My electric rates are skyrocketing. What can I do?

Answer

Our electricity rates have become increasingly volatile due to our over dependence on natural gas. We saw our electricity rates rise 24% last winter and the trend is accelerating with the Mass DPU approving generation rate hikes of almost 100% for the coming winter. It is clearly time to diversify our energy portfolio.

The increased volatility of our electricity rates makes switching to solar and wind power increasingly attractive. In fact, solar has reached “rate parity” in Massachusetts. Many Solarize Lexington homeowners with good sunny roofs were able to save up to 75% on their electricity bills by locking in a fixed rate for their solar electricity for next 20 years.

For those of you without good sunny roofs, like your lucky neighbors, ask your elected representatives to support community shared solar projects, which will allow you to buy solar power from a nearby solar farm.

 


Sustainable Lexington Committee

Sustainable Lexington is a Town committee appointed by the Board of Selectmen to enhance Lexington’s long-term sustainability and resilience in response to environmental resource and energy challenges.

Email: sustainablelexcmte@lexingtonma.gov

http://www.lexingtonma.gov/committees/sustainablelex.cfm

 

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All Things Sustainable

Mark Sandeen, Chair Sustainable Lexington Committee

Mark Sandeen, Chair
Sustainable Lexington Committee

All Things SustainableQ: I’m planning to install solar power at home and I was wondering if I could use the solar power system to run my home during a power outage.

A: One of the wonderful things about solar power is how well it works with the utility grid. When your solar energy system produces more power than your home currently needs, you can pump that power out to the grid and your utility will give you a credit for the value of that electricity. When your home demands more energy than the solar energy system is generating, you can draw power from the grid to make up the difference.

Unfortunately when the utility power is out, your solar energy system still needs another energy source to act as a backup – a place to send electricity when the system is producing more power than you need and a place to pull extra power from when a cloud passes overhead. Your utility doesn’t want you to do that during a power outage. because it endangers line workers trying to restore power. So all solar installations must disconnect from the grid during a power outage.

One common backup strategy is to add batteries to your solar installation. Unfortunately the price of batteries hasn’t fallen as fast as the price of solar panels. That means a battery backup can easily add 30 – 40% to your overall cost of installation.

Another idea is to combine solar with a backup generator. This makes a lot of sense for buildings – like our schools and municipal buildings – that already have a backup generator installed. Properly designed backup generators disconnect from the grid during a power outage – operating like an island – and supplying all their own power. A well-designed solar energy system can easily integrate with your backup generator, letting the solar panels carry the load when the sun is strong and the backup generator picking up the slack during evening hours. The NY Times has an excellent article about a school that survived Hurricane Sandy by doing just that. http://bit.ly/solarbackup

Q: We’ve all been told that one of the first things we should do to lower our emissions is to replace our incandescent light bulbs. LED lights sound great, but have the costs come down enough to make them a viable alternative?

A: Yes, the price of LED bulbs has been dropping rapidly. LED light bulbs are the longest-lasting and most efficient mass-produced light sources to date. And now, they’re also among the most affordable, with some costing less than $10 per bulb.

They are a much better product than compact fluorescents. They turn on instantly. They are dimmable. They last 25 times longer than an incandescent bulb and 3 times longer than a CFL. They are more durable and contain no mercury. And best of all, they look great, providing warm natural light.

And LED bulbs save a lot of energy — from manufacture to disposal, an LED bulb uses 5 times less energy than an incandescent bulb and about 30% less energy than a CFL.

Plus LEDs can do things no incandescent or compact fluorescent bulb has ever done before. Some LED lights can be controlled over the internet or with your smartphone, allowing you to turn lights on and off remotely. You can set up presets like Home, Away, Night with schedules controlling light bulb groups and dimming levels, all with one touch. No more crawling behind the couch to plug in that timer before you leave on vacation.

 

Send your sustainability questions to questions@sustainablelexington.org. We look forward to hearing from you.

 

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All Things Sustainable

Q: Would the soil next to the bike path be suitable for growing vegetables?  What contaminants left by the railroad are of concern?  How far away from the tracks would the “fall out” area be?

A: All good questions. Here are a few different ways to think about the issue from our friend Meg Muckenhoupt.

In general, railroads were not good stewards of the land. The Rails to Trails Conservancy (http://www.railstotrails.org/) lists the following possible contaminants often found near railroad beds:

  • Chemically treated railroad ties
  • Oil, gasoline, cleaning solvents, etc.
  • Fossil fuel combustion products
  • Roofing shingles (asbestos)
  • Herbicides
  • Air compressors
  • Transformers and Capacitors
  • Metals

For $10 you can test your soil for heavy metals and some other soil contaminants via the UMass Extension soil-testing lab. It’s the best ten bucks you’ll spend on your garden. The UMass test results also provide recommendations for improving your soil (nutrient and pH adjustments) and protecting crops from contamination. http://soiltest.umass.edu/

For peace of mind, you might want to build a raised bed. A raised bed is just a big box filled with soil. They warm up earlier than the ground, they are easier to keep free of weeds than beds at ground level, they are attractive, you can control what soil goes into them, and you can line the bottoms with landscape fabric to keep roots from reaching contaminants in the underlying soil.

That’s what the Food Project does in Boston to keep plants away from lead-contaminated city soils. If you’re not fond of carpentry, there are several local garden businesses to help you out; Rad Urban Farmers and Ben Barkan come to mind.

Meg Muckenhoupt writes about gardens and green spaces at greenspaceboston.com and edits the Belmont Citizens Forum Newsletter (belmontcitizensforum.org). Her most recent book is Boston Gardens and Green Spaces. (http://amzn.to/MfuIRB)

Q: How would you define resilience in the context of developing a long-term plan for Lexington?

A: That’s an excellent question. Let’s take a look at some possible definitions. Ecologists call a system resilient if it is able to resist being pushed past a critical threshold. Business leaders tend to think of resilience as continuity in the face of natural disasters. Psychologists describe resilience as the ability to avoid being permanently damaged by trauma. For Lexington, I’d suggest that resilience means the ability to maintain our core purpose, our quality of life and integrity, while recovering and thriving in a disruptive environment.

Send your sustainability questions to questions@sustainablelexington.org. We look forward to hearing from you.

 

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How Can Lexington Become Climate Resilient Community?

By Laurie Atwater

From coast to coast communities are experiencing the devastating environmental and financial effects of extreme weather events. Droughts, hurricanes and flooding have wreaked havoc on communities as close as New Jersey and left homeowners and small municipalities in financial crisis. In response, both states and municipalities are recognizing the need to adapt to the reality of extreme weather and plan accordingly—to protect their finances and maintain their quality of life. Acting early, individuals and communities can begin to make their infrastructure more resilient and their natural resources less vulnerable, ultimately saving landmarks, homes and millions of dollars.

For individuals and communities a two-pronged approach is necessary: reduce carbon emissions and prepare for extreme weather. Can we both reduce carbon emissions and develop plans to deal with the effects we are already seeing?

Forward-thinking members of the Lexington League of Women Voters have formed the Climate Change Community Conversation Steering Committee and are joined by other concerned town officials and community groups to address the resiliency of our town and the ways in which Lexington can both forestall the worsening of the problem and address the reality that is already here. As organizer Jeanne Krieger says, “It’s here, now we have to deal with it.” The League is sponsoring their second Community Conversation on Tuesday, February 26th so the community can gather together and explore these issues together.

Building on the success of last year’s event on the topic of What Does Community Mean? (which has resulted in a report and series of recommendations), this discussion event will follow the same format. Town Moderator Deborah Brown will preside over the evening and keep things on track. Pam Hoffman who also worked on last year’s successful event says they want participants to attend with an open mind. “We want to create a warm, welcoming, open and safe feeling for the evening. People will be greeted and randomly assigned to a table. There will be snacks and coffee and we will be working in small groups.”

The evening will kick off with a short talk from Anne Kelly an environmental lawyer who has worked the legal end of environmental issues in Massachusetts and is currently an advisor and policy expert for Ceres, an organization focused on developing global sustainability.

After Kelly’s remarks each small group of participants will work together to record observations and ideas that they will share with the larger group at the end of the evening. “This is a dialogue. There’s no right or wrong. We’re not looking for answers or solutions,” Hoffman stresses. “We’re going to start with this question and discuss it in small facilitated groups: What do you love about Lexington and could that be impacted by changing climate?”

“Unlike the first Community Conversation,” says Jeanne Krieger the main organizer of the event, “this Conversation is not in response to a Selectmen’s appointed task force, but rather stems from a feeling on the part of the League [the League of Women Voters], members of several town committees and citizens’ organizations that Lexington should consider the impacts of climate change in a more systematic manner.”

The Climate Change Community Conversation Steering Committee represents a variety of organizations throughout town ranging from the League of Women Voters to the Lexington Bike Committee, LexFarm and the Lexington Sustainability Committee. That’s because climate change and extreme weather will have an effect on every aspect of community life from heating and cooling our schools, siting and planning new construction, creating more efficient community transit and protecting our natural surroundings to recreation and tourism. Lexington also has a special responsibility to protect its historically significant landscape for future generations.

“We are all living with the impacts of climate change,” Krieger says. “We want to encourage people to share their observations—however big or small—to listen, talk and learn.”

Ultimately, Krieger hopes to provide the Selectmen and other town agencies with a report summarizing the recommendations from the Community Conversation session. “We will request to be on the Selectmen’s agenda and distribute it to all attendees,” she says. “Between the report and the warrant article, I expect there will be a fairly clear set of actions that might well include the call to develop a Climate Action Plan.”

For now, the group wants to hear from as many citizens as possible. “We want to bring in people from all different aspects of the community.” Hoffman says. “Most people are just beginning to think about this and we want them to know that they are not alone.”

Krieger, who has devoted years of service to the town and has served as the Chairman of the Board of Selectmen comments, “There are things we can do as individuals and as a community to slow this process and protect the town. We have accomplished much to make Lexington a green community. With a focused effort we can use the talents and resources of the community to make even more progress on this difficult issue.”

As Lexingtonians we have always been on the leading edge of advancement and change and here is another opportunity for our community to lead the way into a better future.

 

 

 

 

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Too Much Water?

By Mark Sandeen, Chair, Sustainable Lexington  |

Q:   Is it my imagination, or has Lexington been having many more large rainstorms in recent years?

A:   It’s not your imagination. When it rains, it pours. A new report on extreme precipitation by Environment America looked at precipitation data for the last 60 years and found that the frequency of extreme storms has increased by 81% in Massachusetts.  This is much faster than the national trend, which saw an average increase of 30%.  Extreme storms are also increasing in size as well as frequency – the amount of precipitation produced by the biggest storm each year increased by 25% in Massachusetts over this period.

Lexington DPW Rain Garden

Given this trend, it makes sense to design our storm water infrastructure to be more resilient.  The rain garden at the Lexington DPW building is one example of using natural systems to handle this increased rainfall while reducing the chance of flooding.  The Sustainable Lexington Committee is working with the Town to implement similar solutions for other areas that have experienced flooding during our recent extreme storm events.

You can read the full report here: http://bit.ly/TnTyiR

Q:   I’ve just completed an energy efficiency upgrade project for my home. Will my energy efficiency investment improve my home’s resale value?

A:   Yes, a study conducted by ICF Consulting and published in the Appraisal Journal found that for every dollar in annual fuel savings, the resale value of a home typically increases by $10 – $25. Another University of California study that tracked all the homes sold in California from 2007 to 2012 found a 9% increase in resale value for Green certified homes. The study controlled for key variables that influence home prices including location, size, vintage, and the presence of major amenities such as swimming pools, views and air conditioning. Both studies confirm that energy efficiency substantially increases the market value of owner-occupied homes.

The most important conclusion from this research is that homeowners can profit by investing in energy efficiency, even if they don’t know how long they will be staying in the home. If your energy savings exceeds the interest paid to finance your energy efficiency investment, then you will enjoy positive cash flow for as long as you live in your home and you can also expect to recover your investment in energy efficiency upgrades when you sell your home. On top of that, you can get a 7-year, interest-free loan for up to $25,000 of energy efficiency work from Mass SAVE. Check out their HEAT Loan information at http://www.masssave.com/Financing

Make sure your appraiser and your real estate agent know you’ve made energy efficiency improvements and let them know about this important research.

Send your sustainability questions to questions@sustainablelexington.org. We look forward to hearing from you.

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Is Solar Power for You?

 

Mark Sandeen, Chair
Sustainable Lexington Committee

Are you curious whether solar power makes sense for your home? How you can lower your energy bills? How our local climate is changing? Will electric cars make a difference? How safe is our water supply? Should I buy my food locally? Send your sustainability questions to questions@sustainablelexington.org and we’ll have the Sustainable Lexington committee get back to you.

 

Q:      Do we have enough sunshine to make solar power practical in Massachusetts? Can solar power really make a difference?

A:     Yes and Yes. The Boston area is a great location for solar installations. A solar energy system installed in the Boston area will generate almost as much electricity as the same system would generate if it was installed in Sacramento – just 11% less. A Boston area installation will generate only 19% less than if the same system was installed in Reno, Nevada. Interestingly, that same Boston area installation will generate almost double the energy compared to the same installation in Germany.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) released a report this week “U.S. Renewable Energy Technical Potentials: A GIS-Based Analysis” that shows just how amazing the solar and renewable energy potential in Massachusetts truly is. http://1.usa.gov/T6UU0n

NREL has determined that utility scale and rooftop solar power installations have the technical potential to deliver 111,398 GWh of electricity each year. To put that into perspective, Massachusetts consumed 57,123 GWh of electricity last year. That means solar power from Massachusetts has the potential to deliver almost double the electricity we are using today!

If you’d like to learn more about solar power, join us for a viewing of the documentary film “Here Comes the Sun” on September 12th at 7:30PM in Cary Library followed by an update from our solar energy task force outlining the Town of Lexington’s solar energy progress. This event is sponsored by Lexington Global Warming Action Coalition. For more information go to LexGWAC.org. Admission is free and open to the public.

Q:     I noticed that Lexington’s Board of Selectmen issued a letter to support the reduction of mercury pollution from power plants. Is mercury pollution a concern here in Lexington?

A:     Yes. Mercury pollution, much of it coming from coal-fired power plants, represents a particularly widespread threat to families nationwide. A dangerous neurotoxin, mercury poses a particular threat to pregnant women and small children. Exposure affects a developing child’s ability to walk, talk, read, write and learn.

The Center for Disease Control estimates that as many as 1 in 6 women of childbearing age have high enough mercury levels in their blood to harm a developing fetus.

As of 2010, all 50 states have fish consumption advisories in place to warn residents of the potential health effects of eating fish caught from local waters. Of these advisories, 81% were issued in part because of mercury pollution accumulated within the aquatic food chain.

Reducing mercury pollution from coal power plants will result in as many as 11,000 lives saved, 4,700 heart attacks and 130,000 asthma attacks prevented every year!

Clean, healthy air and water are fundamental American rights. The mercury and air toxic rules supported by the Board of Selectmen will also reduce exposure to a host of other health-threatening toxics, including arsenic, cyanide, chromium and acid gases.

Feel free to contact us at questions@sustainablelexington.org. We look forward to hearing from you.

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