HARTFORD, Conn. — Wind turbines could begin springing up at state prisons after state lawmakers introduced legislation requiring the Department of Corrections to pilot alternative energy solutions.
The bill, if approved by legislators, would require the department to develop a wind power pilot program that would erect several wind turbines at one state prison. The move is designed to expand the production of renewable energy and to reduce energy costs in the public sector.
State prisons, which have sufficient adjacent land, provide an ideal testing ground to pilot a wind turbine program, officials say. Prisons could also benefit from significant cost savings by meeting their 24-hour, high-occupancy energy demands through the generation of renewable energy on site.
The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act allocates significant funding for alternative and energy initiatives at the state and local level and the DOC would be directed to seek grant funding from the state’s green energy fund to finance the renewable energy initiative.
Under the legislation, any unused power generated by the initiative would be allocated to the host community nearest to the prison complex.
The DOC is also exploring the feasibility of hydrogen fuel cell technology, officials say.
In February, the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office in West Boylston, Mass. began a site analysis as part of plan to erect three 2.5-megawatt wind turbines on open-field sites adjacent to the jail. Officials installed a 160-foot meteorological tower to measure prevailing wind conditions and factors, such as wind speed and direction. The preliminary study, which will also examine noise levels and the environmental impact of the proposed installation, will evaluate conditions over a 12-month period.
“By investing in clean, renewable wind energy, we’re saving the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars while also planning for our long-term future,” says Sheriff Guy Glodis.
The jail consumes about 6 million kWt of electricity annually. The three-turbine farm, which could generate more than 15 million kWt of renewable energy per year, is projected to reduce annual energy costs by approximately $350,000.
The sheriff’s office funded the wind study and installation of the test tower with grant assistance from the state Division of Capital Asset Management and the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust.
Under the initiative, surplus energy produced by the jail wind farm would be routed to the municipal power grid to generate additional funding.
State prison and local jail authorities in Virginia and Nevada have launched wind power projects in recent years. The Correctional Service of Canada, which operates 58 federal correctional facilities, launched a wind-power trial earlier this year.
Prison service officials approved the installation of a 200-foot, 600-kWt turbine at the medium-security Dorchester Penitentiary in New Brunswick, which is projected to reduce the 466-bed facility’s annual electricity costs by up to 25 percent.