Prisons turn to the wind for energy
Prisons are turning to wind power to supply energy for their around-the-clock operations.
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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.
In Indiana, the first wind turbine at a corrections facility was installed last year, according to Kevin Durbin, a maintenance supervisor at the Putnamville Correctional Facility. The prison is on the highest elevation in the county, he says, which made the location perfect for wind.
Virginia is planning to use stimulus money to erect three turbines on a ridge at the Wallens Ridge Correctional Center, according to Michael Kelly, a spokesman for the governor’s office. He says that when completed, this will be the largest wind-energy system on state land in Virginia – and the first one at a prison in that state. Construction is scheduled to begin this year.
Why are correctional facilities considered well suited for wind energy?
In addition to consuming a great deal of electricity, they're on public land, where no special permits from town committees are necessary. Prisons are also often located in areas – such as on islands, along seacoasts, or at high elevations – where winds are stronger.
Those locations aren't an accident. “Because when it’s on a hill, you have a better view,” said Étienne Chiasson, a spokesman for Correctional Service Canada, when asked why prisons are often built on windy hills or mountains. “It would be a good vintage point when you have someone trying to escape.”
Canada installed its first wind turbine at a federal correctional facility – at the Dorchester Penitentiary in New Brunswick – last April and is currently building a second one at the Drumheller Institution, a medium-security prison on the prairies of Alberta.
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In New Brunswick, the turbine reduced the prison’s carbon dioxide emissions by 940 metric tons, which is the equivalent of taking 265,511 small cars off the road or planting 4,700 trees, according to the Correctional Service’s press office.
The Canadian government is also evaluating the feasibility of wind power at 10 other prisons.
“The Government of Canada is committed to demonstrating leadership in promoting renewable energy technology,” the press office said in an e-mail. “This project is a concrete example on how CSC is delivering on its Sustainable Development Strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
Wind turbines are also going up at prisons in Britain, according to Lauren Starr, a press officer for the Ministry of Justice. Ms. Starr says the ministry is now evaluating 50 potential locations for windmills, an initiative that will offset up to 50 percent of prisons’ carbon emissions.
Back in Plymouth, Mr. Birtwell is excited about tapping into wind energy, but he says the county jail has been unable to purchase a turbine for a few months because of a shortage. Still he remains optimistic:
“If you stand on the roof of our building, you could see Plymouth harbor,” he says. “It was the wind power that brought the Pilgrims here, and we’re sort of building on that tradition.”