Savings from solar farm to pump $200K into Williamstown budget

A 1.9-megawatt solar array on the former Williamstown town landfill.

President Joe Biden convened world leaders virtually April 22 and 23 to discuss the climate emergency. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law the Legislature’s road map toward carbon neutrality on March 26. Williamstown will get to vote on the town’s COOL Committee’s Net Zero resolution at town meeting June 8. There appears to be a trend.

All are reactions to the climate emergency caused by the emission of greenhouse gases which, accumulating in the stratosphere, trap heat, resulting in a dislocated climate and rising sea levels.

Of the many ways to respond to the climate, perhaps the easiest is to vote. Provided, of course that we mean it and intend to act on our beliefs. Residents of Williamstown — perhaps other communities will follow suit — will have that opportunity.

The Williamstown resolution calls for the town — meaning residents, businesses, municipal operations — to use no more energy than it obtains from green sources by 2050. To accomplish this goal, the town would develop and implement “a comprehensive climate action plan by 2023,” taking action to support clean energy; taking account of climate impacts in all municipal decisions and planning; preparing for the impacts of climate change; paying attention to related environmental justice issues; and employing strategies consistent with those of the commonwealth.

Stephanie Boyd of the town’s Planning Board and renewable energy consultant Nancy Nylen, who have shopped the proposal for the COOL (CO2 Lowering) Committee including at an online panel on April 20, emphasize that the town has been a leader in the state in environmental matters and has taken many actions consistent with that stance. For example, all the municipal power comes from solar panels at the former landfill. The COOL Committee would like Williamstown to model climate behavior.

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The town has a not-so-secret weapon. At the panel discussion, Williams College Provost Dukes Love noted that the college is already carbon neutral, but that even with a large, multi-college solar array in Farmington, Maine, coming online in September, the school will slightly miss its goal of reducing carbon emissions by 35 percent. The culprits are the heating plant and faculty and student air travel. Addressing those deficiencies will be part of a college-wide strategic plan, nearing completion.

Panelist state Sen. Adam Hinds, in describing the state’s Decarbonization Road Map, emphasized the importance of breaking a large agenda into doable segments. He has high hopes that offshore wind will be a big help. The commonwealth is not meeting its goals in the transportation sector currently. Like the college and the town, emissions must be taken into account in making all decisions, such as those by the Department of Public Utilities. The state is second only to California in regard to climate emergency policies.

The resolution says that residents should recognize a responsibility to participate in a global effort. Williamstown’s warrant article would not bind the town to goals; rather it would set in motion a process that should make the goals attainable. By coming up with a Climate Action Plan, and implementing it, the town can reduce the large challenge to individual sectors, such as heating/cooling, transportation and reducing waste.

President Biden called on the nation to engage: “We’re going to do this together.” Voters in the college town will have the opportunity to sign on. At least, that’s how it looks from the White Oaks.

Lauren R. Stevens, a writer and environmentalist, is a regular Eagle contributor.