September 20, 2006

Holy Name pioneering green energy

Holy Name Central Catholic Junior/Senior High School has an intriguing plan to capture the wind that swirls around its building on the top of Granite Street with a 164-foot wind turbine between the high school and its notoriously blustery football field.

Planning for project is in the early stages, but the nonpolluting electrical generator could save the school up to $200,000 a year in electricity costs.

The project will need approval from city boards and the Federal Aviation Administration, because it is within five miles of Worcester Regional Airport.

Holy Name wisely enlisted three WPI students and a computer and engineering professor to help lay the groundwork.

Like other wind generation projects, the Holy Name project will need significant subsidies to get under way. The WPI research persuaded the Sisters of St. Anne, Holy Name’s founding order, to award a $50,000 grant that Holy Name used to hire Sustainable Energy Developments of Ontario, N.Y., to draw up financial and technical specifications.

A $575,000 grant from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, a quasi-public agency based in Westboro, is pending. The school plans to raise the rest of the estimated $1.6 million cost from philanthropists and investors.

Because wind power is intermittent, it always will be a supplemental source of electric power. Whether refinements in technology will make it economically viable for large-scale applications without subsidies remains to be seen.

Smaller projects, such as the one at Holy Name, will help determine the answer. School officials deserve credit for pioneering what someday may be a significant part of the energy equation.

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