Nov. 14, 2011 meeting

Attending:  Neil Anders, Donna Caisse, Aimee Hanson, Steve and Janice Kurkoski, Susan Pepper, Cathy Stanton, Joe Zorzin


  • The Athol Agricultural Commission has been officially established and has started meeting.  There are plans to start a farmers market in Athol, among other activities.
  • Bruce’s Browser will be showing the film Gasland on Friday, Nov. 18 at 6:30 p.m.

Proposed PV Projects in North Quabbin:  Joe Zorzin and Susan Pepper visited to talk about their concerns over the Memory Lane solar farm project in Orange.  We discussed the issues they raised and continued our discussions about the draft NQE statement on solar farms.  There was consensus that the statement should go out with just some minor additions and editing.  It includes a general statement of support for solar farms with some caveats and recommendations.  The group felt that we should think about ways to go beyond just stating those reservations, and so we will work on getting hold of and posting the solar overlay zoning bylaws from nearby towns that have approved those.  We will also encourage people on North Quabbin area town energy committees to bring this idea before their town governments, if this hasn’t already been done, so that towns are able to consider potential problems with solar farms before there are proposals already in the approval pipeline. Cathy will get contact information for the towns that we know have solar overlay districts (New Salem, Montague, Gill, Northfield) and Aimee will contact them to get their bylaw language.  Neil will get the Mass. DOER templates for solar and wind siting.

We talked about several other issues that have come up around the proposed solar farms.  It is not entirely clear whether towns can pass bylaws that challenge Green Communities’ as-of-right siting for renewable energy projects, which may be a possible snag.  Several people noted that it is also very difficult to get information from electric companies about where their feeder lines actually are, which makes it hard to coordinate possibly competing projects that may need to connect to the same feeder (which may in some cases serve more than one municipality).  We also discussed how environmental regulations might be mobilized in opposition to a solar farm that threatens sensitive wildlife habitat.

Garlic and Arts Festival Debrief:  Janice asked for input from the group for ideas and speakers for the festival. They hope to have the lineup in place by April or May.  It seems that high-tech topics don’t pull as big an audience as some others.  Solar thermal power always seems popular, as do food topics and hands-on workshops.

The “Power of Solutions” forum for town energy committees included people from eight of the nine North Quabbin towns plus Barre.  We all felt the forum was quite successful and that it was encouraging and useful for people to meet, share experiences, and begin to move toward some potentially coordinated regional projects. It is clear that each town is dealing with quite different circumstances and issues, but even just recognizing that fact and being aware of the range of potential ways to approach this can be helpful.

As discussed at the forum, NQE will aim to convene two of these gatherings annually, one at the Garlic Festival and one in early spring at a location to be determined each year.  Aimee will approach Al Rose at Red Apple Farm about the possibility of convening in their big meeting room this coming spring.  We felt it would be appealing if we were to meet in various places around the area (eg. the Wendell library’s community room, etc.).

Other ideas for upcoming events:

River Rat weekend:  There was interest in being part of the River Rat parade again, as we did two or three times when NQE first started.  Aimee and Donna will serve as a sub-committee to work on this idea.  They may approach other groups that use MREC about the idea of creating some big puppet figures (or using those created by kids’ groups at the Y in previous years) relating to environmental and energy themes.

Films:  There was interest in showing at least one film in the coming months.  One possibility is Hooked on Growth, which Pat has a copy of.

Home Show:  This was just mentioned briefly as one potential event in the spring.

Electricity campaign:  Janice is still collecting data from NQE members and tracking our electricity use.  The sub-committee working on this project will meet again and decide what the next step is.

Future meeting dates: We talked about whether we should establish a regular meeting time (eg. fourth Wednesday of every month) and stick with it.  The problem with this is that people’s schedules change and that there appears to be no evening that is consistently good for everyone in the core group.  We decided to continue with our meeting-by-meeting setting of dates, using a Doodle poll as we did this past time.  Cathy offered to host a potluck the week of December 12 and will set up a poll to pick a date for that.




Leave a Comment

Oct. 17, 2011 meeting

Attending:  Paul Goyetche, Pat Larson, Tom Rich, Cathy Stanton


  • Warwick Arts Council is sponsoring a film screening of Islands in the Wind and Ocean Energy Innovators on Saturday, Oct. 22 in the Warwick Town Hall.  The filmmaker, David Conover of Maine, will be in attendance.
  • There will be a Seeds of Solidarity farm tour on Saturday, Oct. 29 from 10 to 11:30 a.m.

Solar farms:

We talked more about concerns and issues relating to the proposed solar farms in the area:

  • Are wind and solar generation capacity similar?
  • What responsibilities do the companies have to upgrade equipment or dismantle it if it becomes obsolete or worn out?
  • How reputable are these companies and will they be in business over the long haul?
  • How does this affect wildlife habitat?
  • Should towns all establish a solar overlay district?
  • How do privately-owned solar farms benefit a town or region?  (Selling electricity into the grid doesn’t necessarily benefit us per se or contribute to making our area more energy self-sufficient.)
  • Are there adequate labor and environmental safeguards in the manufacturing processes for the panels that are being used?
  • Will National Grid add more capacity for renewable generation as time goes on?

Cathy will draft a general statement about our group’s position on these kinds of projects and we will send it around to the core group for comments.

Possible next meeting dates:

Cathy will set up a Doodle poll to choose between these dates:

Monday, Nov. 14, Wed., Nov. 16 – potluck at 6 p.m., meeting at 6:30 p.m.

Leave a Comment

Sept. 14, 2011 meeting

Attending:  Donna Caisse, Cara Cutter, Genevieve Fraser, Paul Goyetch, Aimée Hanson, Janice and Steve Kurkoski, Elaine Reardon, Bruce Spencer, Cathy Stanton


  • Athol just formed an Agricultural Commission to be filled shortly.

Garlic Festival planning:

We talked about various ideas for our electricity-reduction campaign, including ways to use our “fake” electric clothes dryer and real “solar dryer” (i.e. clothes drying rack).  Cara will make the electric dryer and will help Cathy and others with signs and info for the rack.  Aimée will make a tie-dyed T-shirt to hang on the rack.  We need to put together a list of resources for people at the table to consult if people ask questions about specific topics;  Pat will update the list from previous years.

Volunteers are needed for the Friday before and Monday after the festival, as well as for raising tents on the Tuesday before.  The festival organizers are particularly looking for groups of people to help with parking, and are offering incentives for this.

Electricity data-gathering project

Janice sent around an email with a spreadsheet attached for us to put in our electricity use data.

Solar farm proposals

We had an open-ended discussion about the various solar farm proposals currently on the table in Athol, Orange, and elsewhere in the region.  National Grid is allowing only 3 MW per town of solar capacity to be added through these large-scale projects, so those that are already being proposed may take up most or all of that.  There are differences of interpretation about the extent to which towns can control this;  State Law 40B says towns can’t regulate solar production, but some people argue that “reasonable” regulation is allowed, with consideration for health and environmental impacts.

The proposed project for a 3 MW solar farm on a 17-acre private property on Memory Lane in Orange has prompted some opposition on environmental grounds (mostly relating to wildlife habitat).  Opponents are unhappy that the buffer zone, which is already cleared, is much smaller than the state recommendation.

We did not reach a conclusion about what to do in terms of making a public statement or other decision about this, as our group includes both those with an active role in developing solar farms and those who are opposed to some of the current proposals. Janice pointed out that Montague, Northfield, Gill, and some other area towns have created solar overlay districts that specify appropriate places for large-scale solar production, and we talked about whether NQE should recommend to North Quabbin town governments that they do the same (which may be a moot point if the current proposals use up all the capacity allowed by National Grid, but it may be wise for future years).

We will continue this discussion at the next meeting.

Next meeting

Monday, Oct. 17, potluck at 5:30 followed by meeting.  Millers River Environmental Center.

Leave a Comment

Techno-Trash eCycling Fundraiser

Techno-Trash eCycling Fundraiser

Sunday, October 9th, 8 am -2 pm

6 Lockes Village Road, Wendell, MA (Across from the town common)

Turn your broken or unwanted techno-trash into a beautiful Edible Forest Garden. How? Bring anything that runs on a battery or has a cord, with a few exceptions* and for a small fee, you can drop your unwanted electronics or swap any that are in working order. The leftovers and items beyond repair will be properly recycled at, a nearby electronics recycling center, which has a ZERO landfill policy. 100% of the materials are broken down and recycled in an environmentally sensitive manner.

Benefits the new Wendell Permaculture Edible Forest Garden.

Questions? Contact Betsy Ames at or find us on facebook:

(if your item is not listed, estimate according to these categories)

Cell Phones
Toner/Ink Cartridges

(When grouped together, these items will be priced according to the size of the box they fit in, e.g. toaster, microwave, or dryer.)
All types of cables & wires
Other small items

SMALL ITEMS (Toaster or smaller)- $2
Phones/Answering Machines
Alarm Clocks/Radios
Small Video Game System

Trash Compactors
VCR/DVD Player
Satellite Dish-small
Laptops/Computer Towers

Computer Monitors/TVs

Console TVs/Projection TVs
Copy Machines

Air Conditioners/Dehumidifiers
Large Satellite Dish

Leave a Comment

2011 Garlic and Arts Festival Energy Speakers

Renewable Energy Presentation Descriptions and Speaker Bios


10:15 – 12:30 pm

The 1st Annual North Quabbin Power of Solutions Forum

An open roundtable discussion with our Town Energy Committees

1:00 pm

Is Solar Domestic Hot Water Right For You?
Brandon Turner
This talk will be the very basics of solar domestic hot water. Many folks wonder if their home is a candidate for solar hot water, and we will walk through the steps to determine the answer. After some basic teaching of how solar hot water works we will go through what a typical solar hot water site visit looks like. Evaluate your home or business based on the information presented. There will be time for questions & answers.

Brandon Turner is the owner of Renewed by the Son, a solar energy system design and installation company in Erving, MA.

2:00 pm

How Infrared Thermography Can Lead You to Deep Energy Savings

Neil Anders

Come explore low cost and yet high impact techniques commonly available to home owners where they can save big money. These down to earth practices can be done by almost anyone and potentially yields a return on investment within a couple of winter months. Put your home on an energy diet without breaking the budget!

Neil Anders is a BPI (Building Performance Institute) trained energy auditor and the owner of Energy Ecotip, an energy auditing company from Barre Massachusetts.

3:00 pm

Making and Using Low-Tunnel Hoophouses

Daniel Botkin & John DiMatteo

Daniel and John will explain and demonstrate the building and using of “low-tunnel” hoophouse structures around the calendar. These low-cost, unheated greenhouses can be used for habitat modification and season extension by gardeners, foodies and other aspiring growers who seek to extend and enhance their harvests, spring, fall (and winter!). Used widely by professional growers, these low-tech structures can kickstart the intentions of serious growers of any size.

After a career in teaching, Dan Botkin now farms (and mentors newbies), following an eclectic, practical and intuitive approach to diversified, food production. He grows unusual heirloom vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers and runs a small CSA from his 3+ acre Laughing Dog Farm in Gill, Massachusetts.
John DiMatteo is an inspired carpenter and gardener living currently at Laughing Dog Farm. He has been bending pipe and refining a prototype 10’x6’x5′ hoophouse and teaching at-home pipe bending to interested partners.


12:00 pm

Integrating Renewables Into Existing Fossil Fuel Homes

Paul Voiland and Jared Alvord

The duo from Sandri Energy will offer handouts that explore the relative operating costs of different types of systems. They will also have sample plans that spell out some of the costs of various system upgrades.

With over 20 years of experience in all manner of heating and cooling systems, Paul Voiland can help you figure out what is the most sensible way for you to figure out what you should do in your house; whether it is to get rid of all of your fossil fuel use or to cut it down to a manageable level. Jared Alvord, a native of Plainfield, MA, is a recent graduate of UVM where he studied renewable energy systems and business. He is well versed in Solar PV and Solar Hot Water systems and their finances. He works from the beginning lead intake, to follow up with site assessments, creation of quotes, financials, and all rebate and grant paperwork involved with each job.

1:00 pm

Converting Your Bike to Electric – real green transportation now.

Peter Talmage

Learn what to do, how to do it, and get results – BYOB (Bike!).

Peter Talmage is an engineer and teacher who has lived and worked with solar systems and energy efficiency since 1975. Currently he is teaching full time at Greenfield Community College in the Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency Program, commuting 30 miles round trip on his electric bike. When time allows he consults on energy matters.

2:00 pm

Bring Your House into the 21st Century (without selling the farm!)

Bick Corsa, Bick Corsa Carpentry, and Laura Biddulph, CET

Hear it from the horse’s mouth: an integrated “whole house as a system” approach to energy, durability and comfort improvements to your home. PLUS, Laura invites you to take a closer look at an old idea – do-it-yourself interior storm windows, or “winserts.”

Bick Corsa has built three passive solar, high performance houses. His focus is on practical, non-toxic, and affordable measures to construct or retrofit homes to a very high energy efficiency level. Laura Biddulph is the community outreach specialist in the Pioneer Valley for the Center for EcoTechnology (CET) and has a background in home energy assessments.

3:00 pm

Forestry as If the Future Mattered

Bruce Spencer

Our forests are self-sustaining ecosystems that provide us with vital services such as biodiversity, clean water, wildlife habitat, forest products, clean air, and places of spiritual value. Unfortunately, our consumptive and expanding society is slowly reducing forest ecosystem services even if we are not harvesting any forest products. Together, human sustainability and forests mean strict limits on consumption. Come learn the ins and outs of forestry with a conscience.

Bruce Spencer has a BS and MS from UMass and has spent 41 years as Chief Forester managing MDC/DCR’s Quabbin and Ware River Watersheds. Currently he manages his own woodlot as both forester and logger.

Return to main Garlic and Arts Festival website.

Comments (1)

Report on “Slow Living Summit” in Brattleboro

Slow Living Summit Brattleboro, VT 2011

I had the opportunity to attend one day of the Slow Living Summit last month in Brattleboro, VT, and was excited to see the enthusiasm, activism, and hope of the people who attended. With a combination of focused concurrent sessions, plenary talks or panels, and additional open space sessions, there was plenty to learn about alternative energy, Transition Towns, organic food, slow money, and much more.

The day culminated with a talk by Bill McKibben, an extremely knowledgeable and entertaining speaker who had just finished a 2000 mile road trip and was happy to be close to home. He began his talk with very positive words about the progress of the local movement, citing encouraging facts such as the number of farms is growing for the first time in many years. However, he did transition into his ‘professional bummer outer’ role, as he put it, to discuss the facts about our global situation. The earth has already warmed up by one degree, and because warm air can hold more moisture, it sets the stage for the extreme weather we are already experiencing. Some areas get dryer, while other areas experience flooding. All of this affects crops and therefore food prices. With the current situation we are guaranteed another degree of warming, but if steps are not taken, it is likely this will be 3-5 degrees in the long term… Earth would be uninhabitable in those conditions, McKibben says. So McKibben’s take home message was that the local movement is great, but it might be moot if we don’t make significant changes globally as well. He created for this purpose, and encouraged people to try to act locally to have a global impact: some steps he suggested are the following (which can also be found on the website):

  • Sept 24th 2011 is Moving Planet day – another day for people to come together and show support through action, with a focus on people-powered transportation.
  • ‘The US Chamber of Commerce Doesn’t Speak for Me’ campaign. McKibben notes that 55% of the US Chamber of Commerce funding comes from 16 companies, and it has always opposed climate change reform. He is encouraging small businesses and local Chambers of Commerce to declare the ‘The US Chamber of Commerce doesn’t speak for me’. Learn more at

As his talk came to a finish, McKibben asserted that even though some may feel this is a losing battle, if you are morally awake, you need to do what you can to better the odds.

~ Laurie DiDonato

Leave a Comment

Review of “Raising Elijah”

An Environment Promulgation

Raising Elijah: Protecting Our Children in an Age of Environmental Crisis by Sandra Steingraber (Da Capo Press, 2011) is for me a well cited and documented moving call to arms, expose of our environmental crisis written from the heart of a mother/PhD biologist. The compelling depth of understanding of just how severe the environmental degradation is, comes not only from the world of a PhD biologist but more pronouncedly through the eyes of a mother trying to protect her children from a contaminated world. Within the later I feel lies a virulence of message hopefully heedable and understandable to the majority. Her son Elijah, named after a nineteenth century abolitionist Elijah Lovejoy, is not only the subject of her concern but also the inspiration for Sandra’s action. May it be an inspiration for us all.

“I shall hold myself at liberty to speak” – Elijah Lovejoy

Available hard cover only
ISBN 978-0-7382-1399-6

I recommend this read,

Neil Anders

Leave a Comment

Older Posts »