February 13, 2017

City of Gardner Receives Grant for New Turbine

Julia Renner, Commonwealth Wind Fellow

One of the challenges of implementing renewable energy is ensuring consistent energy availability. Wind speeds are not always fast enough for turbines to generate energy, and solar PV panels can only generate electricity when the sun is shining. Numerous solutions are in the works, from batteries that can store the energy until it is needed, to the coupling of clean energy with traditional fuels when wind or solar resources cannot match electrical demand.

But there is already a solution available that helps improve the reliability of clean energy without requiring technological innovation or fossil fuels: combining multiple sources of renewable energy, so that one may be available when the other can’t meet energy demands. The city of Gardner is making major steps towards sustainability and energy independence by supplementing its already-existing wind and solar projects with a new turbine.

Gardner, which has long been a model of the environmental and economic benefits of renewable energy, has been awarded a $400,000 grant from MassCEC to support the project. The turbine, which will be placed in Summit Industrial Park, will be Gardner’s fifth renewable energy installment. MassCEC’s grant will support permitting and community engagement activities while the city seeks a private developer. In addition to reducing emissions and increasing energy independence, the city will benefit economically from the turbine through annual lease payments.

Says Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke, “This is a tremendous opportunity that will help us on our way towards energy independence. It makes sense for the environment and makes financial sense for the city.”

Gardner was an early adopter of renewable energy, and has continued to invest in new projects. In 1985 the city installed 30 2-kW solar PV systems on residential roofs, 25 of which are still in working order. In May 2014 the city completed construction on a 2.5 MW solar plant, which will generate $60,000 annually in  lease payments as well as additional financial incentives based on generation. The project will power the equivalent of 290 homes, and is projected to save Gardner $3 million over the next 20 years.

The city also has two previous wind projects at Mount Wachusett Community College and North Central Correctional Institution.

Gardner’s designation as a Massachusetts Green Community makes it eligible for state grants supporting energy efficiency policies and services and the development of renewable energy facilities. Click here for more information on the Green Communities Program.