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Generator Repair Funds Approved

Deputy Fire Chief Jon Gottfried wouldn’t mind giving serious consideration to a cogeneration system to power fire department headquarters. However,  he isn’t willing to do that at the cost of what the department really needs: an emergency backup power generator.

“It is problematic that many of our systems in the building will not operate in a power outage,” Gottfried told the Board of Finance. A $265,000 appropriation was needed to upgrade the old generator. A federal grant will repay the spent funds, but only if the backup system meets the guidelines. One clause: The system must have a self-contained, self-reliant fuel system.

The idea of a cogeneration system was put forth by Representative Town Meeting members Catherine Talmadge and Kevin Green. The idea is that the system uses natural gas to generate power, and recaptures excess heat for use in the building, which makes the system energy efficient. It would, in theory, pay for itself after seven years.

If something happened to the natural gas lines feeding the unit, it could shut down. Gottfried saw the concept as an interesting and probably reliable primary power source, but not sufficient as a redundancy system. A standalone generator, on the other hand, is affected by nothing other than its state of repair and fuel level. Gottfried fully supported installing a cogeneration system in other stations when it is time for a full remodeling.

Green said the cogeneration systems are reliable enough to consider as adequate backups because the natural gas lines are not typically affected by storms or other emergencies. Furthermore, the station has solar panels to help with some power generation.

Taking the deputy chief’s advice, and not wanting to risk forfeiting the grant, the board of finance voted to make the appropriation and pursue the more traditional emergency generator system.

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