Md. town launches an effort to conserve
University Park will be a case study for better energy efficiency
A crisp winter afternoon with temperatures in the mid-20s was the perfect day for Dick Norman to talk heat and energy.
“My house is on the drafty side, so this is very timely,” Norman said as he stood in the middle of the University Park Elementary School gymnasium Saturday afternoon with a stack of brochures from companies showing him how to make his home energy efficient.
Norman was among about 80 residents who participated in the launch of the town’s Sequential, Transformative Energy Program for University Park (STEP-UP!), a community-wide effort to conserve energy.
The goal of the three-year program is to improve energy efficiency in 30 percent of the homes in the tree-lined community filled with brick colonials dating to the 1930s.
STEP-UP! plans a low-interest loan program for residents and — with town council approval — wants to invest in other projects, such as solar energy on a public building, efficient streetlights, transportation initiatives and composting.
The town will track its progress and offer its experience as a case study for small towns across the country.
The program qualified for $1.4 million in federal stimulus funds.
University Park was one of only 20 jurisdictions in the country that received the money from the U.S. Department of Energy to implement programs that will reduce energy use by homes, vehicles and businesses. University Park was one of the smallest jurisdictions, and the only one in Maryland.
“It says a great deal about the people who put this proposal together,” said Mayor John Tabori, noting the grass-roots effort that led to the award. “We fell off our chairs when we learned we won the project.”
Chuck Wilson, who brought the idea before the town council, said he thinks that others will learn from University Park’s effort.
“ There are dozens of towns like this across the United States that are small and run by volunteers,” Wilson said. “ This is designed to work with those.”
Participants at Saturday’s workshop learned about energy audits and talked to energy efficiency specialists about their work.
Some scheduled appointments. Others signed up to speak with the town’s newly hired “energy coach,” who will help residents interested in learning more about conserving energy.
“I want to do what I can to help the environment,” Karen Sondak said. “I want to know what that is, whether it’s changing the installation or putting solar collectors on the roof.”