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Decas to juice plant with wind

CARVER – A major cranberry grower and processor wants to harness strong inland winds to power its 112,000-square-foot manufacturing plant and reduce the company’s electricity bills and greenhouse gas emissions.

Decas Cranberry Products Inc. is launching a yearlong feasibility study to monitor wind speeds needed to determine whether putting a wind turbine behind the plant would prove economical. Lighthouse Electrical contracting plans to install a 1.65 megawatt test wind turbine this month at the industrial property on Route 58.

“It’s a dual motive,” said Decas president Jeff Carlson. “Obviously, we are a large electricity user and we are interested in lowering our carbon footprint. And with the cost of electricity in this area of the country being very high … it’s important that we try to keep our (energy) costs as low as we can.”

The plant’s energy usage is around 6 million kilowatts per year, according to a company press release. A wind turbine is expected to produce nearly half that amount. The company estimates that the project would pay for itself in about 5 to 7 years.

Wind is a clean energy source, meaning it does not release any global warming gases into the atmosphere to heat the Earth. A wind turbine would lower the Decas Cranberry’s dependence on energy derived from coal, natural gas and other fossil fuels, thereby reducing the company’s contribution to global warming.

Not only are consumers demanding products that have a low impact on the environment, but food giants such as General Mills and Nestle are looking for their suppliers to show a commitment to environmental stewardship, Mr. Carlson said.

A wind turbine combined with the company’s existing environmental practices – compost from cranberry bogs is used to enrich soils on the farm or is sold to landscapers – would prove a good marketing tool for Decas, which processes frozen cranberries into a wide variety of dried cranberry products that are sold to food companies, he said.

The feasibility study is funded in part by a grant of about $45,000 from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, a state development agency for renewable energy.

The study “is our way of taking a good look to see what the possibilities are,” said MTC spokesman Chris Kealey. Wind maps show that the Carver location has a “decent chance of success,” he said.

Through its Renewable Energy Trust Fund, the MTC has funded over 1,500 solar, wind and other alternative energy projects.

“Our mission is to generate the maximum economic and environmental benefits to the citizens of Massachusetts,” Mr. Kealey said. “Both to decrease greenhouse gasses and to help businesses, residents and others use less energy and save money.”

By Becky W. Evans
Standard-Times staff writer


5 May 2008