Massachusetts Aims to Bring Energy-Efficiency to its Prisons


As state governments look to reduce operating expenditures and increase operational efficiencies wherever possible, energy-efficiency upgrades provide an excellent opportunity to save energy, reduce costs, and minimize greenhouse gas emissions, helping states lead by example in reducing the environmental impacts of their operations.

State prisons actually provide a tremendous opportunity to implement these efficiencies. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, there are approximately 1,200 publicly-funded correctional facilities across the United States, each of them operating 24/7, which creates a tremendous scale of budgets allocated to prisons’ energy bills – and therefore, tremendous opportunities for efficiencies and savings.

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When thinking about correctional facilities, energy-efficient upgrades usually do not come to mind; however, Massachusetts reduced its annual utility costs by more than $1.2 million through a comprehensive energy project and installation of 3.3 MW of wind generation at the North Central Correctional Institute (NCCI), one of the Commonwealth’s 18 prisons. NCCI Gardner is just one of dozens of state facilities within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that have undertaken energy efficiency improvements and significantly reduced energy consumption and costs.

According to its Showcase Project in the Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Solution Center, NCCI Gardner reduced its source energy use by 42 percent following the substantial completion of a large energy project in 2014, managed by the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM). Through the conversion of an existing 125 psi high pressure steam heating system — fueled by No. 6 residual fuel oil – to high efficiency 50 psi natural gas central boilers, as well as building envelope and thermal improvements, the facility was able to reduce its thermal load by 31%. Overall utility costs have been reduced by 65 percent, leading to $1.2 million in annual utility savings.

Other energy measures included condensate line replacement, upgrades to windows, new attic insulation, conversion of old steam dryers to efficient, natural gas dryers, and the addition of several satellite natural gas boilers. In addition to energy improvements, the facility also featured a number of water conservation measures including conversions to low-flow fixtures for over 140 showerheads, 200 faucets, 50 urinals and 300 water closets, resulting in a 24 percent reduction in water use. NCCI Gardner also installed two onsite 1.65 MW wind turbines that generate approximately 9 million kWh of renewable energy per year–equivalent to the electricity use of more than 1,100 Massachusetts homes annually– while generating more than 135% of the annual electricity consumption of the prison.

The Gardner project was part of the Commonwealth’s Accelerated Energy Program (AEP), introduced in January 2012. The goal of the AEP was to implement energy-efficiency projects across more than 60 million square feet of state buildings that would substantially reduce energy consumption, costs, and emissions.

The 28-building campus at NCCI was originally established in the late 1800’s as a sanitarium and working farm, and the facility is currently located on forty acres of hillside near the Gardner/Westminster town line. The prison as it stands today was originally opened in 1981, and the complex has undergone numerous renovations and upgrades throughout its 100+ year history.

The energy-efficiency improvements the Commonwealth of Massachusetts implemented at NCCI Gardner will continue to generate opportunities for the state budget and help the Commonwealth move toward its long-term emissions reduction goals. With the energy project at NCCI Gardner and initiatives statewide, Massachusetts has reduced greenhouse gas emissions at state facilities 28% in just over a decade. The work in Massachusetts establishes a blueprint for other states and municipalities to make better use of its energy resources and find opportunities to save taxpayer dollars, while meeting energy and environmental goals.

For more information about the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ work with the Better Buildings Initiative, please visit the Better Buildings Solution Center.
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