Leading by Example: Solar PV in Needham

The Solar Team continues to look for ways to utilize the tremendous potential for solar power in Needham. Building on our success with the RTS Solar project and Solarize Needham, the Team promotes residential, business, and municipal solar. With over 250 residential installations, and 11,780 panels producing over 4 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year on our closed landfill, Needham is leading by example.

Where’s solar in Needham?

In June 2020, Green Needham Collaborative joined with the League of Women Voters of Needham and the Needham Community Farm to launch Meatless Monday Needham.  Adopting the model of the internationally recognized Meatless Monday movement, the Meatless Monday Needham team created a website with extensive information about the health and environmental benefits of plant-based eating. (See the Meatless Monday write-up about the Needham effort.) Participants signed a pledge to “eat healthy plant-based meals every Monday for the next 12 weeks” and received monthly newsletters with recipes and information about food and diet. Meatless Monday Needham offered online cooking classes with Chef Dave Becker and cooking instructor Jessica Weiss, as well as several forums. During the course of the 2-year campaign, over 250 households (representing more than 500 individuals) took the pledge.
Numerous Needham organizations participated in the effort by promoting the initiative to their membership, including the Needham Women’s Club, Parent Talk, Mothers Out Front, Kalmia Garden Club, Needham Community Council, and the environmental committees of Carter Memorial United Methodist Church, First Parish of Needham, Needham Congregational Church, and Temple Beth Shalom. The campaign was endorsed by the Needham Board of Health.


Plastic Bag Ban

In January 2017, Green Needham assembled a team to get Needham to join the then 64 other Massachusetts communities – including our neighbors Natick, Newton and Wellesley, and now Boston – in implementing a ban on single-use plastic bags.

In March 2018, as a result of these efforts, the Select Board unanimously adopted a policy requesting that stores over 3,500 square feet voluntarily discontinue the use of single-use plastic check-out bags on or before June 1st.

Municipal Solar at the RTS

In April, 2016, the town of Needham celebrated the grand opening of the solar installation on the capped landfill at the Recycling and Transfer Station (RTS). Covering 12 acres, the 11,780 solar panels produce over 4 million kilowatt hours of electricity each year.

With Needham receiving rental and property tax income from the system, as well as saving money on electricity costs, the project will save the town roughly $20 million over the next 20 years.

Green Needham began investigating the possibility of solar at the RTS in 2009, when we organized a preliminary walk-through of the capped landfill and discovered the potential for a large PV array. After several years of conversations with town staff and officials, plus a presentation to the Board of Selection by Green Needham chairman Michael Greis, the Selectmen decided in 2012 to appoint a Solar Exploratory Committee to make recommendations. A positive recommendation from the Committee in a May 2013 report led to actions that resulted in completion of the project in less than 3 years.

Solarize Needham 2014 – accelerating installation of solar PV for Needham homeowners

  • In 2014, responding to a proposal by Green Needham, the Town of Needham worked with several of our members to submit a successful application for the “Solarize Massachusetts” grant program, which is designed to promote solar electric (Photovoltaic, “PV”) installations on homes and small businesses in selected communities across the state. In partnership with the Town, Green Needham put together a Solarize Needham™ team, which chose Astrum Solar (now Direct Energy) as the town’s “One Trusted Installer.” The Solarize Needham Team organized a grassroots educational campaign to introduce the program, which offered a tiered pricing structure that increased the savings for everyone as more home and business owners in town signed up.
  • As a result of the Solarize Needham initiative, over 130 new residential PV systems were installed in 2014 and early 2015.

Needham 2011 Summit on Energy and the Environment

Over 150 residents, elected and appointed officials and municipal staff participated a community-wide conversation on our future. Featured speakers

  • Mark Sylvia, Commissioner, MA Dept. of Energy Resources,
  • Anthony Brooks, host of WBUR’s Radio Boston and
  • Michael Greis, Green Needham Chair

discussed the Massachusetts Clean Energy and Climate 2020 plan and the roles of the state and communities in achieving it. Break-out sessions prepared and guided by local college and high school students generated and discuss ideas on what Needham could be in 2020 and how we might get there.

NStar Community Challenge – Promoting Home Energy Assessments

Having a home energy assessment and following up on the recommendations is one of the ways we can all save energy, money and create a more sustainable community. Green Needham was selected by NStar to participate in a community pilot program to significantly increase the number of households getting energy assessments and taking follow-up action. The Home Energy Savings (HES) team was formed during this project to continue the work on an ongoing basis.

10% Energy Challenge

10% Energy Challenge – This Green Needham flagship project supported Needham residents in reducing their energy use and carbon footprint by 10%. Over 900 families participated, identifying and committing to steps that they could take to save energy and money. Multiple Needham businesses made investments to reduce their energy use. In October, 2012, Green Needham will present a plaque to the Town commemorating the contributions of these organizations and businesses to making Needham a more sustainable community.

Wind Power Feasibility Study

This project was planned to install a meteorological tower at the RTS to gather wind data over a one year period. The data was to be analyzed to generate a business case for the installation of a wind turbine that would generate power for the Newman School. The project was not completed because of objections from a nearby business.

Home Energy Efficiency Improvements

This 2008-2010 project worked to make it much easier for Needham residents to identify and implement high-value home energy efficiency improvements. It targeted the key barriers preventing people from taking advantage of opportunities that would reduce their energy use, save money and increase their comfort and the value of their homes. The approach used in this
project paved the way for Green Needham’s participation in the NStar Community Challenge.

LWV Fall Forums

Green Needham was a co-sponsor of the Needham League of Women Voters fall forum, a community event that has focused on sustainability by hosting prominent, thought-provoking speakers paired with workshops and related local organizations.

  • 2009 Fall Forum – Paul Lukez, author of Suburban Transformations
  • 2008 Fall Forum – Frances Moore Lappe, international food activist
  • 2007 Fall Forum – Global Warming: How you can make a difference

<h4″>Needham Community Solar ChallengeIn 2008 Green Needham partnered with the Needham League of Women Voters to solicit community members to donate to the New England Wind Fund.  This successful project earned Needham a 2kW solar array that was installed at the new High Rock School and accumulated, through donations to the New England Wind Fund, over $21,000 in community matching funds toward alternative energy and education projects. The Big Belly solar trash compactors around town were purchased with these funds.

Needham Public Schools initiatives

  • Eco-Explorers – Needham Public Schools, with the support of community partners including Green Needham, received an EPA Eco-Explorers grant for 2010 -2012 to help teachers incorporate outdoor environmental education practices and to encourage Needham students to become environmental stewards.
  • Schools-based groups:
    • Green Kids (Elementary PTCs)
    • PEAT – Pollard Environmental Action Team
    • High School Environmental Club
  • Walk to School / Safe Routes to School – Encouraging and supporting Needham students and families to walk to school
  • NEF/Green Needham/NPS Collaborative Initiative – Green Needham was an early advocate for developing project-based interdisciplinary offerings at Needham High School. The resulting collaboration between the Needham Education Foundation and the Needham Public Schools has led to a planned interdisciplinary course pilot in the 2013-14 school year.
  • Needham RTS & Needham Public Schools – Expanded Recycling Program

Outreach and education



Collaborations to build a more sustainable transportation infrastructure in and around Needham, including

Needham Community Farm

Green Needham was an early supporter and collaborator in launching the Needham Community Farm, a center for environmental education for the Needham community, with a focus on farm-based learning as a tool to reconnect with the source of our food, and promote sustainable living practices.

Municipal projects and collaborations

  • EPA Community Energy Challenge
  • Town of Needham’s Xeriscape Landscaping
  • Needham RTS & Needham Public Schools – Expanded Recycling Program
  • Needham RTS Pilot Food Waste Composting Program

Upcoming Events