Quincy CAN

Quincy Climate Action Network promotes energy conservation and efficiency, and the use of renewable energy by Quincy government, businesses, and residents.

QCAN came together in early 2012 in response to the city’s abandonment of plans for a 1.5 megawatt wind turbine on Moon Island. Since our founding we have made our views known in the media and in numerous meetings with city officials. Many QCAN members serve on the mayor’s Climate Change Committee, finding ways to reduce fossil fuel usage and increase the production of clean renewable energy in our city.

In just a few years we’ve done all this and more:

  • Successfully lobbied the city of Quincy to hire a qualified energy manager, resulting in substantial reductions of energy use by city government.
  • Successfully lobbied the city of Quincy to install a total of 2 megawatts of solar panels on the rooftops of fourteen city-owned buildings.
  • Helped the city apply (three times) for a grant under the Solarize Mass program, and provided 90%+ of the volunteer energy once we won the grant; results: more than 600 kilowatts of solar under contract for rooftops of city houses and commercial buildings.
  • Sent a delegation, and the QCAN banner, to the 2014 People’s Climate March in New York City.
  • Cosponsored the Kill-a-Watt program, which has put this home energy-use assessment tool in the hands of many dozens of Quincy library patrons.
  • Cosponsored the well-attended showing of the film Chasing Ice at the Thomas Crane Public Library.
  • Cosponsored the well-attended showing of a film on Rhode Island’s Deepwater wind turbine project, also at the library.
  • Cosponsored, with the library, a well-attended lecture on climate change by Stephen Young, a Salem State University geographer.
  • Organized a forum for candidates seeking city office.
  • Signed 100 Quincy residents up for home energy assessments.
  • Cosponsored, with the library, a lecture on renewable energy technologies by the Harvard physicist Mara Prentiss.

We welcome Quincy residents and others to our monthly meetings. We’re always eager for new members, and we welcome guests, so come and bring your energy and ideas! For more information or to join, contact info@QuincyCAN.org.

Lecture by Physician to Forecast Health Effects of Compressor Station

January 15, 2016

[Links to videos of the lecture: Video 1 | Video 2 | Video 3]

Opposition by residents and officeholders to the proposed Fore River compressor station stems largely from the idea that emissions from the facility would harm the health of Quincy and Weymouth residents. In a lecture to be held at 7 p.m. at the Thomas Crane Public Library, Quincy Center, on Tuesday January 26, Curtis Nordgaard, M.D., a pediatrician who practices in Dorchester, will back up that idea with some hard numbers.

Spectra Energy, the company proposing the compressor station, has downplayed any health effects that the facility might cause. “Spectra claims that pollution from the compressor station will be insignificant,” said Susan Harden, a board member of Fore River Residents Against Compressor Station, a cosponsor of the lecture. “The lecture will give people a chance to hear that claim debunked by an unbiased researcher with great credentials.”

The other cosponsors of the lecture are the library and Quincy Climate Action Network.

Research on the Spectra proposal by Nordgaard, who also has a master’s in biology, has taken him deep into the scientific literature on health effects of compounds such as benzene, formaldehyde, and acrolein, three of many pollutants that will be emitted by the compressor station, according to Spectra’s application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The emissions will result in large part from the burning of gas to power the compressor, Nordgaard said in a telephone interview, and they will come on top of airborne pollutants from a pair of nearby power plants, a chemical factory, a sewage-pelletizing plant, and a tank farm. As part of his research, Nordgaard has been measuring air quality at two locations in Weymouth near the site of the proposed compressor station, and he hopes to have baseline air quality numbers to share at the lecture.

The few existing studies of compressor stations, which are limited in scope, have found effects including headaches, nosebleeds, and eye and throat irritation. Pollutants listed in the Spectra application are also known to cause elevated levels of heart and lung disease, said Nordgaard. The coauthor of ten journal articles, on topics as varied as medical care for homeless people, macular degeneration, and the functioning of the human brain, he plans to publish his research on the compressor station in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

Gas companies and their allies are proposing natural gas as a “bridge fuel” that can break the world’s dependence on dirty fuels like coal and oil, supplying the world with cleaner energy for a few years, until renewable technologies like wind and solar are ready to take over. Norgaard disagrees with this characterization. “Gas power plants have lifetimes of 30 to 50 years and need to stay open for many years to recoup their cost,” he said. In addition, he said, research has shown that, because of leaks at gas wells and in gas transmission lines, natural gas produced by fracking may actually be dirtier than coal when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions.

“Renewable technologies have been ready to take over for some years now,” added QCAN board chair David Reich, “especially when combined with conservation and efficiency. What Massachusetts needs now is not more gas pipelines and compressor stations but more solar energy and more wind turbines—projects like the massive Bay State Wind Farm being proposed for waters off of Martha’s Vineyard, which would power half a million homes without harming the health of anyone.”

Harvard Physicist to Give Talk on the Transition to Renewable Energy

November 3, 2015

Using technologies like solar panels, wind turbines, and electric cars, the world can get all its energy from renewable sources–not at some point in the future but today. So says Mara Prentiss, a Harvard physics professor who will be speaking on the topic at the Thomas Crane Public Library, 40 Washington Street, at 7:00 p.m. on November 18.

In her talk, cosponsored by the library and Quincy Climate Action Network, Prentiss, the author of the new book Energy Revolution, will argue that the transition to renewables is not only technically feasible but also economically advantageous. For example, she says, “the price of solar panels has dropped enormously.… Bloomberg has reported that in 36 states it will be cheaper next year to produce your own solar electricity than get your power from the grid.” Meanwhile, she says, midwestern US states are already using wind turbines to supply a big chunk of their electric power, with Iowa getting more than 40% of their power from wind in peak months.

In addition to renewable energy production, Prentiss will also discuss grid and storage technologies that can assure a constant flow of electricity even when the electrons come from intermittent sources like wind and solar.

To get our energy by burning fossil fuels is inherently inefficient, Prentiss says. Because of a physics principle called Carnot’s Theorem, devices that use heat to generate energy, including gasoline engines and coal- or gas-fired power plants, peak out at 50 percent efficiency, she says, no matter how ingenious their design, with the rest of the energy in their fuel given off as waste heat. Motors like the ones in electric cars, by contrast, have efficiencies ranging from 90 to 98 percent.

Besides, burning fossil fuels, whether it’s in cars or power plants, “creates a whole lot of problems,” Prentiss says. “In the US, we focus on climate change, but in the developing world, air quality is a bigger issue. In places like New Delhi and Beijing the air is often so polluted it is hard to breathe.”

Nevertheless, she says, “I’m not trying to tell people what to do. I’m just explaining choices of which they may not be aware.”

Mayor and City Council Hopefuls Talk Energy at QCAN Candidate Forum


BU Professor, Senator to Speak at Gas Leaks Workshop

On Wednesday, October 7, 2015, Quincy Climate Action Network will sponsor a workshop on a leading source of greenhouse gas emissions in Massachusetts: leaks from underground natural gas pipes. In Quincy alone, 613 leaks have been reported. The two-hour workshop, for both municipal workers and the general public, will start at 9:30 a.m. at the main branch of the Thomas Crane Public Library, 300 Washington Street in Quincy Center.

Speakers will include Nathan Phillips, a Boston University professor of earth and environment, who will talk about his ground-breaking research on gas leaks. Also speaking will be state Senator Jamie Eldridge, from Acton, who will discuss legislation he has filed on Beacon Hill to encourage gas utilities to repair leaks more promptly.

A manager from the Cambridge DPW will speak on how cities and towns can coordinate with utilities to hasten repairs. Officials from several utilities have also been invited.

Gas leaks account for 10 percent of the Massachusetts carbon footprint, as much as all the state’s factories and retail stores combined, said Audrey Schulman, president of the Home Energy Efficiency Team, a Cambridge nonprofit that is helping organize the workshop along with QCAN and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council. According to Schulman, about 2.7 percent of natural gas in Massachusetts is lost to leaks, a loss that is charged to ratepayers.

Cities and towns should care about gas leaks not only because of their contribution to climate change but also because they kill street trees, at a cost of $3000 to $6000 per mile of roadway, Schulman added. In addition, they increase ground-level ozone, a major cause of asthma.

“I’ve been working on energy efficiency in houses for the last eight years,” she said. “Well, underground leaks lose more gas than [the state’s efficiency programs] save. It’s got to be easier to plug these leaks than go house-to-house improving efficiency.”

Nonprofits Sign Up for Chance at Free Solar Panels

August 9, 2015

On July 30 2015, Solarize Quincy, a state- and city-sponsored program that makes discounted solar panels available to city residents, inked its 76th contract with a city resident, for a total of 400kW of solar installed or in the pipeline. Reaching this milestone insured that Solar Flair, Solarize Quincy’s exclusive installer, will donate a free 5 kW solar installation to a Quincy nonprofit, said Rebecca McWilliams, lead volunteer for Solarize Quincy.

To qualify, nonprofits must own their own facility in Quincy and have a good location for solar power. “We will accept nonprofit nominations until midnight on August 31, 2015. In September we will perform site assessments on the nonprofits to determine which sites are good candidates for solar panels. The winner of the free solar array will be announced in late September.”

In mid-July Mayor Thomas Koch sent a letter to nonprofits in the city encouraging them to sign up for a chance at winning the free panels. So far seven nonprofits have signed up or been nominated, said McWilliams. To nominate a nonprofit, go to solarizequincy.weebly.com and click on “tier 6” in the upper right hand corner of the page.

Hitting the 400kW mark is a tribute to the hard work of members of the Quincy Climate Action Network and other volunteers, McWilliams said. Volunteers will continue gathering names of residents who’d like to find out if their house will work for solar. Residents and businesses can also sign up for a solar assessment of their property at the Solarize Quincy website.

Originally scheduled to end in June, Solarize Quincy has been extended to August 31, 2015. “There’s almost a month left, and we aren’t slowing down,” said Dan Barnett, residential sales manager for Solar Flair.

Officeholders Sign Up for Solar Assessments

June 12, 2015

“My wife and I were pleased to hear that our home and garage may provide a good platform for a solar energy installation,” said Ward 3 City Councilor Kevin Coughlin. Four officeholders, including Coughlin, Sen. John Keenan, Mayor Thomas Koch, and School Committeewoman Anne Mahoney, have signed up for an assessment from Solarize Quincy, a state- and city-sponsored program that provides discounted solar panels to Quincy residents and businesses, but Coughlin is the first to have his property assessed.

The assessment, including satellite imaging and a site visit, determined that Coughlin “has a southern-facing roof, limited shading, and enough room on the roof” for an 18-panel system, said Brian Hession, a residential sales associate with Solar Flair, the exclusive installer for Solarize Quincy. The system would supply 82 percent of Coughlin’s household electricity, according documents provided by Hession, and with discounts and incentives, it would pay for itself in about three years and yield almost $70,000 in savings over its 25-year expected lifetime. By replacing electricity from fossil-fuel-fired generators, the system would also result in 3.8 fewer tons of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, emitted into the atmosphere yearly.

In explaining his interest in solar panels, Coughlin cited the environment as well as the potential savings. “I am a supporter of alternative energy both as a resident homeowner and as a local elected official,” he said, pointing out that he has supported the installation of solar panels on city property and introduced environmental laws and resolutions as a city councilor.

Rebecca McWilliams, lead volunteer with Solarize Quincy and past chair of the Quincy Climate Action Network, praised Coughlin for “showing leadership on energy and environmental issues by participating in the Solarize Quincy program and getting a free solar assessment.”

Residents have until June 30 to sign up for solar panels through Solarize Quincy. The program will hold an educational event for home- and business owners on Monday June 22 at 6:30 p.m. at the Thomas Crane Public Library, 40 Washington Street, Quincy, MA.

For more information or to sign up for an assessment, go to solarizequincy.weebly.com.


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