The 600-kilowatt wind turbine at Holy Name Central Catholic Junior/Senior High School is one of the wind turbines in our green power portfolio. The driving force behind the project was Mary E. Riordan, the school’s former biology teacher and headmaster, and now its Director of Institutional Advancement. According to Kevin Schulte of Sustainable Energy Developments Inc., who consulted on the development of this and many other turbine installations, “For a project to succeed, it needs a real champion; for the Holy Name wind turbine project, that champion is Mary Riordan.”
According to the Worcester Telegram, “Back in 2001, the school was spending $190,000 a year on electricity. This was due, in part, to the fact that the school was housed in a facility built in 1967 with an all-electric heating system.” During her term as headmaster, Riordan faced heating bills that threatened to upend the school’s financial stability. Calling on Worcester Polytechnic Institute for its initial feasibility study, Holy Name realized that they had an excellent site for wind power, with capacity to completely power the school.
The cost effectiveness of the project became clear to Riordan when she toured another 600 kW turbine at Portsmouth Abbey School in Rhode Island, which is also part of our green power portfolio. “That was the turning point for me,” Riordan later told a reporter, referring to the hundreds of thousands of dollars Portsmouth Abbey was saving on its electric bills and in sales of “renewable energy certificates.”
Riordan found financial support for the turbine’s development first from the religious order that had founded the school, the Sisters of St. Anne, and then from the Worcester Dioceses, the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (which is now the Mass. Clean Energy Center), and several private foundations.
Our organization, through our members, supported the turbine’s development with our purchase of Holy Name’s Renewable Energy Certificates, starting from its first day’s production in 2008, right through till today. For every megawatt hour of electrons that the turbine produces, it also produces a Massachusetts Class I Renewable Energy Certificate, documenting the environmental benefits of that nonpolluting power generation. With the help of our REC purchases and its electricity production, the school’s investment will likely be paid off soon and the school will then enjoy 10 to 15 years-worth of virtually free electricity and the rest of us will enjoy pollution-free electricity!
“In addition to the economic benefits that wind power affords, the installation of this wind turbine is an opportunity to implement our responsibility to be a good steward of the earth,” wrote Riordan on the school’s green initiative webpage. “The turbine will be a landmark and demonstrate a commitment by all involved regarding the need to develop sustainable, clean energy.” We would note that stewardship is a key motivation behind the projects at Portsmouth Abbey and Mt. St. Mary’s Abbey in Wrentham, Mass, another turbine in our portfolio.
The school’s web site lists several other positive attributes of the wind turbine.
- reduction of Massachusetts’ importation of electricity (and fuels for generation)
- enhanced energy security, with less vulnerability to supply disruptions due to national and international stresses
- deferred facility upgrades to the school’s heating system
- reduction of electricity line losses
- increased grid reliability
- increased diversify of Massachusetts’ energy mix, making the Commonwealth and its ratepayers less vulnerable to the price volatility of conventional fuels
- less vulnerable to sabotage or the accidental disruptions experienced by larger fossil fuel and nuclear power plants
- To those, benefits, we would add that the turbine is a great site for educating citizens interested in renewable energy. We have held a few turbine tours there, on our own and in partnership with the Broad Meadow Brook sanctuary of Mass. Audubon. We find that the more people learn about wind turbines, they more they like them. And there’s no better way to learn than by visiting them up close.
In conclusion, perhaps one of your New Year’s resolutions could be to join our green power program or contribute to our New England Wind Fund.
Pictures from 2012: