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More wind turbines could follow UMD sustainability campaign

DARTMOUTH – UMass Dartmouth’s energy future could include three wind turbines, Chancellor Jean F. MacCormack told The Standard-Times Tuesday at the dedication of the first one.

Dartmouth town officials are enacting restrictions that would sharply limit the options for siting wind turbines in anything but commercially zoned districts. UMass Dartmouth, however, is not subject to the town’s zoning bylaws and could put more almost anywhere.

“We’re very cognizant of the neighbors,” MacCormack said. And that is why the first one is tucked into the southwest corner of the ring road, not even visible from the campus entrance.

“We avoided the northern part of the campus intentionally,” she said.

Over time, as wind turbines become more familiar than they are today, siting one more visibly might not be unwelcome, she said. The first, located next to the Woodland Commons dormitories, was the subject of community meetings and has met with no complaints since it was erected two weeks ago, according to UMass.

Instead, it was the subject of a celebration Tuesday that brought together lawmakers and Patrick administration officials, all of whom heaped praise on UMass and on Gov. Deval Patrick for pushing energy initiatives.

The ceremony was followed by a larger gathering that put a spotlight on the entire sweep of energy projects that have been completed or are in the works.

MacCormack called it “invisible growth” because most of it is hidden from view. It includes renovation of building systems – heat, cooling, electricity, plumbing – that have plagued the campus since its construction in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Aside from the turbine, the other major project was the installation of electrolytic solar panels on four Woodland dormitories and on the athletic center. The next big step is a new co-generation power plant that will replace the existing 40-year-old oil burner. The new facility will provide electricity and heat and will save an estimated $1.1 million per year.

The two-phase project will eventually put $34 million into improvements in energy efficiency and clean energy production that will pay for themselves in 12 years. The school has contracted for 20 years with the energy systems company Noresco of Westborough, from construction to maintenance and upgrades.

After the turbine ceremony, there was a Green Campus Awards luncheon. Honored were: Campus Services for bringing in sustainability-focused food service and Zipcar rentals, supporting a bike path and more; Steven White, chairman of the Sustainable Studies department, for vast expansion of the programs; Ashley Nunez, class of 2014, for extensive participation in sustainability programs such as the Green Navigators forestry project; Derek Christian, co-owner of the Brix Bounty Farm, for his participation in sustainability projects throughout town; and Senior Resident Engineer Manny Del Lima, a self-described “glorified plumber with an engineering degree,” for overseeing and coordinating energy projects.

Finally, MacCormack received an award for her commitment to sustainability.