Mansfield was one of five towns recognized as reaching Energize CT’s gold level Connecticut clean energy community during an awards ceremony Wednesday, according to recycling coordinator Virginia Walton.
The town received a gold level plaque from Energize CT, in collaboration with Eversource, United Illuminating, Green Bank and Connecticut Natural Gas, in recognition of its efforts to promote renewable and reduced energy use.
Walton, a member of Mansfield’s sustainability committee, said outreach programs like clean energy options and the neighbor-to-neighbor energy challenge, which received 27 percent participation, contributed significantly to the achievement by recruiting residents to undergo an energy audit and convert part of their energy consumption to solar, wind or hydropower.
“All of that was cumulative,” Walton said. “Every time a resident does something in town, whether they know it or not, the town gets points.”
Overall, she said in a press release, Mansfield’s energy conservation efforts since 2010 saved almost 14 million kilowatt hours of electricity and 46 hundred cubic feet of natural gas.
“That is 7,106 tons of avoided carbon dioxide, which is equivalent to taking 1,239 cars off the road for one year or planting 1,762 acres of trees,” Walton said in the release.
Mansfield has also received three Bright Idea Grants from the state to provide efficient LED lighting for municipal buildings and entered an agreement with SunEdison to equip the community center with solar panels in 2008.
Curt Vincente, director of Parks and Recreation in Mansfield, was involved with the negotiations and said SunEdison installed the solar array on the community center’s roof at no charge.
“It’s their energy and we buy the energy back at a reduced price,” Vincente said. “It’s kind of a win-win with reduced prices without the upfront cost.”
E.O. Smith High School, Mansfield Library, Mansfield Senior Center and two community fire stations have also been equipped with free solar panels through collaboration with DCS Energy and the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund.
Walton said going door to door with a team of local advocates has made clean energy programs more accessible to residents, but that fliers and pamphlets have been effective as well.
“In this day and age a lot of people are nervous about opening their door to strangers,” she said. “I think sending out something from the town saying, ‘Here’s what we’re doing, and it’s sponsored by the state’ seems to be fairly effective.”
Walton said the Energize CT award demonstrates that the green movement’s compatibility with Mansfield’s inherent rural character, a quality that draws many residents to the area.
“Concentrate development in certain areas, and leave your open spaces open. In tandem with that, do what you can to use less energy because that’s always the best way on the cost end of things,” she said.