Greenest on Green Street

Mount Wachusett, in Massachusetts, U.S., took another step towards becoming the country’s first carbon-neutral community college last month with the construction of its second Vestas V82-1.65 MW wind turbine.

The two wind turbines are expected to produce 97 percent of the college’s electricity needs while also returning 30 percent of the power generated back into the grid. With construction now complete, work is being done to put the wind turbines online by February.

“The wind energy  project is generating tremendous excitement on campus and in the community. The college community clearly recognises the significance of this project not only to the campus but to the Commonwealth and to the country at large,” says MWCC President, Daniel M. Asquino.

“We are acutely aware of the environmental impact of this project and the fact that MWCC has emerged as a national leader in renewable energy and sustainability.”

The wind power project is part of the Massachusetts Leading By Example renewable energy initiative and will earn the college over $600,000 annually, when debts are paid off.

From Nuclear Power to Renewables

MWCC was built in the early 1970s when nuclear power was viewed as the power of the future. Consequently, the college was built as an all-electric facility for lighting, heating and cooling. Since the proliferation of nuclear power never materialsed, MWCC found itself in a situation where it was paying twice as much on its utility bills as other colleges, explains Ed Terceiro, Resident Engineer and Executive Vice President Emeritus.

As the cost of electricity escalated, alternative energy sources were sought, beginning with the conversion to biomass in 2002. The conversion has saved the college almost $4 mn in utility costs so far, while reducing its carbon footprint by 24 percent, electricity use by 46 percent and water use by 52 percent.

The success of the biomass project has led to other renewable solutions, which have helped the college in its journey toward energy independence. These innovations, which include photovoltaic, geothermal and solar thermal hot water, have been integrated into teaching and learning experiences for students at the college.

“MWCC has the only state Department of Higher Education-approved associate degree in Energy Management program in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The college also has an associate degree program in Natural Resources, which also incorporates several courses in renewable energy,” says Terceiro.

MWCC is located on Green Street, Gardner, in the north of Massachusetts.

More information on the wind energy project at MWCC can be found on the college’s blog: