AYER -- Since Ayer became a designated Green Community in 2011, the town has maintained its status by reducing energy costs and implementing energy efficiency and renewable-energy projects through state grants and the efforts of many.
The discussion to make Ayer a Green Community began in 2008 when the Green Community Committee began looking at alternative energy efficiency.
"We created an energy policy in 2009 that listed our goals and objectives as well as methods and actions to accomplish them," Chairman Carolyn McCreary said. "We investigated a performance contract and hired Johnson Controls to assess our energy needs. But we chose to refer to the energy audit to identify the work we needed to do and accomplish it in-house or with local contractors."
In 2009 the committee received an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant of $150,000 to modify the town's wastewater treatment plant building so it required less oil to heat. While energy efficient projects began to take hold, the committee looked at the process of qualifying to be designated a Green Community by the state.
"The DOER Green Community designation comes only after the town has met five criteria," McCreary said.
The criteria state that the community must provide for renewable or alternative energy generating, research or manufacturing facilities within a year of the application and to establish an energy use baseline inventory for municipal buildings. It also requires the town to purchase fuel efficient vehicles for municipal use, and all residential construction over 3,000 square feet must practice energy efficiency, water conservation and alternative energy technologies.
The town voted to pass the last requirement at Town Meeting in May 2011, allowing Ayer to meet all of the Green Community criteria.
"I think the town has become more aware of energy conservation and is more committed to ensuring that we reduce our energy consumption if only to save money," McCreary said.
So far, the Green Communities grant program has funded five projects. Among them, replacing streetlights in town to LED lights, converting the DPW pump station to run on gas rather than oil, installing automatic controls in Town Hall to ensure that electricity and HVAC systems are turned off when not in use, upgrading the lighting outside the fire and police stations and installing "smart chips" in town computers, which put them into stand-by mode when not in use.
"Statistics vary, but experts say stand-by power consumption in an average home ranges from five to 10 percent of your household energy consumption," McCreary said.