Solar Panels Proposed for Christa McAuliffe Library Branch

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FRAMINGHAM – The City of Framingham is currently working with the Framingham Public Library on installation of solar panels at the Christa McAuliffe Library branch on Water Street in the Nobscot section of the City.

City of Framingham Sustainability Coordinator Shawn Luz said the the solar project at the McAuliffe Library is a roof-mounted solar energy project that is currently projected to produce approximately 85,000 kWh per year. Most, if not all, of the electricity will be utilized on-site as opposed to going back to the grid

Luz’s recently updated the Framingham City Council Environmental & Sustainability subcommittee and the Framingham School Committee’s Environmental Subcommittee on projects in the city.

Luz told the City Council subcommittee the McAuliffe Library was part of a number of locations throughout the community identified by him to be the most interested in energy initiatives, taking into factors such as the available space for energy development.

The Framingham Board of Library Trustees buildings & grounds subcommittee voted to approve the easement for the solar project at its June meeting.

The Sustainability Coordinator and the Library Trustees are working on moving the project further and are preparing to go before the City Council to present the idea. Luz did not discuss the cost of the solar installation project with either the City Council or School Committee subcommittees.

SOURCE reached out to Lena Kilburn, the Framingham Public Library Assistant Director, about the library’s direction involving using renewable energy and what it means for the library going forward.

“As far as it is concerned, this to us [the library] was a no brainer. We were excited by the project,” Kilburn said. “We wanted to make sure that we worked well with the city and the schools. As far as an environmental perspective, it is a fantastic addition to the building”.

She talked about how investing in green energy related to the scientific and educational background of the library’s namesake – Christa Corrigan McAuliffe, the first teacher in space, who tragically died on board the space shuttle Challenger. McAuliffe, a Marian High and Framingham State graduate, grew up in Framingham.

“It fulfills the spirit of the building, especially in terms of innovation and the spirit of Christa McAuliffe. I think she would have been very proud to see this project come to life. It also offers the opportunity for education and community. We want to do it up. We want to provide information to the community on how the solar panels work, and for kids and families to understand how it works, and offer the community an opportunity to learn about energy and what happens moving forward.”

Kilburn went on to talk about how the solar panels could introduce children to green energy.

“We are committed to offering STEM programming here at the library. Our Makerspace is one of the vehicles for that as well as our library of things and all our technology that we are building and creating for kids and families and the community at large,” Kilburn said.

The library is currently working on a plan to create opportunities for kids to learn what this technology is, what renewable energy is, and how the solar panels work.

Kilburn highlighted the need to accommodate the current COVID-19 restrictions, and find ways to disseminate that information to the community.

Once the building is open, Kilburn said, they will provide opportunities for kids and families to learn more about it in the building and how it works in the infrastructure of the building.

Constructed in 2016, the McAuliffe library branch is currently LEED-certified and rated as a Silver Level building.

SOURCE asked questions were asked about plans and projects that the Framingham Public Library could undertake in the future with its Main Library building to update its sustainability.

“We have been working really closely with Jim Paolini’s department and Shawn Luz’s department to see if we can improve the condition of the building to make sure that it’s up to code and that some of the repairs that need to be done are done in order to create more efficiency. There has been efficient lighting installed over the years. There are projects that have been done over the years to get us where we need to be,” said Kilburn.

But, she also highlighted that the main Framingham library on Lexington Street is older, having just celebrated its 40th birthday. It opened its doors in December of 1979.

“There are things that we can do now going forward and we will work closely with City Facilities and Capital Management in order to do the best we can with the building we have here now”.

Kilburn said there are projects ongoing and there are plans in the works to have the Main Library building be as sustainable as possible.

“The library is committed to doing that,” she said.

Editor’s Note: Isabella Petroni is a sophomore at the University of New England, studying environmental studies and marine policy, in a dual degree program. She is a 2019 Framingham High graduate. She is a SOURCE intern for summer 2020. In full transparency, she is the daughter of the publisher/editor.

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