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Prisons turn to the wind for energy

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“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.

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