Prisons are turning to wind power to supply energy for their
When the Pilgrims crossed the Atlantic and landed at Plymouth
Rock, it was the wind blowing into their ships' sails that pushed
them across the water. That power of the wind will soon reassert
itself in Plymouth, Mass., when a giant device becomes the first
thing any visitor to this historic town will notice. That's because
plans are under way to build a wind turbine at the county jail here,
on a hill less than a mile from the coast. "We hope to be generating
power, if not next year, then in the foreseeable future," says John
Birtwell, the spokesman for the Plymouth County Sheriff's
department. "We've been waiting for a year to buy a wind turbine
after finishing all feasibility studies." According to Mr. Birtwell,
the jail's electricity bill runs close to $1 million per year.
"Unlike a school building or another commercial building, we're
always open," Birtwell says. "When you have to feed and house 1,600
souls at a location, we have an enormous demand for energy."
An increasing number of correctional facilities in the United
States and in other countries are beginning to look at wind power to
supply energy to their 24-hour operations. With the rising cost of
fossil fuels, governments are finding that investing in wind energy
at correctional facilities makes sense. Plus, green energy improves
the image of prisons and jails.
The state of Massachusetts is currently planning wind turbine
projects at three prisons - after the Massachusetts Renewable Energy
Trust overlaid a wind map with the locations of state facilities and
provided thousands of dollars for feasibility studies.
"Our governor asked state agencies to lead by example and become
more sustainable in our operations," says Kevin Flanagan, the deputy
director of the Massachusetts Division of Capital Asset Management.
Construction of two turbines at the North Central Correctional
Institution, a medium-security prison in the city of Gardner, is
scheduled to begin in the spring. When the project is completed - in
approximately 12 months - it will be the first wind-energy system at
a prison in the state.
Wind will meet the entire electricity demand at the prison, and
extra electricity will be sold to the grid, according to Mr.
Flanagan. The first wind turbine for a US prison was built in March
2005 at the Victorville Federal Correctional Complex in California.
Scott Debenham, a developer who worked on that project, says that
wind supplies approximately 10 percent of the prison's energy needs,
and prisoners' help maintain the turbine by washing the bugs and
dirt off the its blades twice a year. "It's in a remote area where
the neighbors won't complain about the looks of it," he says.
The government is planning to build another wind turbine at the
Federal Correctional Institution Big Spring, in Texas, according to
Felicia Ponce, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Prisons.
In California, where two state prisons already use solar energy,
the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is studying the
feasibility of wind power at three prisons, according to Paul Verke,
a spokesman for the department. …