When Phil Guerin, a 28-year City of Worcester employee, was named a White House Champion of Change in a West Wing ceremony on February 15, he and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood noted the essential roles played by local, state, and federal government to bring an energy project to life. Guerin was honored for his work leading a partnership to reduce energy use through a successful renewable energy project.
Guerin, Worcester’s Director of Environmental Systems for the Department of Public Works and Parks, was the key person-on-the-ground who brought this three-part collaboration to a successful conclusion. The 135 kw project is made up of roof and ground-mounted solar arrays that provide electricity to an energy intensive water filtration plant, which supplies drinking water to 200,000 people in Worcester.
Secretary LaHood said the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) made it possible for community partners like Guerin to bring about real change.
A community culture that firmly embraces sustainability was critical to the success of the project. Worcester was one of the first Massachusetts municipalities to earn Green Community status. Last fall, the city co-hosted with National Grid a community Green2Growth summit. In December, the city launched its Worcester Energy Program.
According to Department of Environmental Protection’s (MassDEP) Jack Hamm and Patricia Arp, central to the success of the project was an effective Department of Public Works & Parks team that included Bob Hoyt, the Water Filtration Plant Manager and a clean energy advocate.
The Patrick-Murray Administration’s goal to promote a clean energy economy set the stage and provided policies and processes to make projects like Guerin’s possible. Even before ARRA stimulus funds became available, the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) and MassDEP teamed up – as part of the state’s Energy Leaders initiative – to conduct audits to identify water and waste water plants with the best potential for renewable energy sources, including PV.
The Worcester project received $1,173,684 in federal grants to fund the project and DOER procured a contractor to manage the solar installation and a consultant to assure proper installation and electricity production. MassDEP supplied the ARRA grant money through the State Revolving Fund, which provides low-interest loans to cities, towns, and other local governmental units for drinking water and wastewater-related infrastructure projects. John Odell, Program Manager for the Worcester Energy Program, noted that the “timing worked extremely well,” and the clear process removed barriers to the city’s municipal project.
All of EEA congratulates Phil Guerin and his colleagues for the project’s success and for his recognition as a White House Champion of Change. We applaud his team and the City of Worcester for the work they’ve done to demonstrate how all three levels of government can work together to meet critical statewide clean energy and environmental goals.