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Polito is joined by local officials and representatives from hospitals from across the state during the announcement.

Polito Announces $9.6M in Energy Resiliency Projects for Hospitals

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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Joe LaRoche provided Polito with a tour of the newly constructed co-generation system on the hospital's top floor.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — As the climate becomes ever more volatile, storms have forced the evacuation of hospitals  in some areas.
Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito doesn't want to see that happen in Massachusetts.
She announced on Thursday some $9.6 million in grant awards to nine hospitals to build energy "resiliency" to protect themselves from such possibilities.
"The impacts of climate change are felt almost daily here in the commonwealth so we need to be more resilient," Polito said, outlining shifting weather patterns since the administration started.
Polito announced the grant awards at Berkshire Medical Center. The local hospital will receive $670,000 to create an "island mode" with its new co-generation system. According to Joe LaRoche, vice president of facilities and construction services, the interconnection system will ensure that the hospital can create its own electricity in emergency situations.
"This is a valuable piece to making our hospital much safer than it used to be," LaRoche said.
He said currently if there is a blackout then the diesel-powered generators are enough to power the facility for 96 hours. But should roads be blocked or fuel deliveries become impossible, the hospital would have to evacuate. This project eliminates that need.
The interconnection system to create that "island mode" is possible through the co-generation system that was recently installed. The hospital spent $3 million to get the new boiler system and engine installed. The co-generation system creates electricity.
"That engine now is providing electricity which won't have to pull from the grid in a normal scenario," LaRoche said.
It is estimated that about $500,000 is going to be saved each year in electrical costs. 
"Berkshire Medical Center is the largest employer in the county. We need those funds you are saving. It is not like it is going to go in somebody's pocket. Those are dollars going right out to good-paying jobs, to great programs. When we invest in the environment, when we invest in energy savings, we are investing in economic development," state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier said.
The hospital is also in the city's downtown and is included as part of a study for a micro-grid system. That would connect the core city facilities -- police and fire headquarters, City Hall and hospital -- to essentially an energy storage system in case of emergency. That is outside of the project at Berkshire Medical Center and would add another layer of redundancy to ensure there is power.

Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Matthew Beaton serves as the emcee for the speaking portion.
"We are really trying to be on the cutting edge of taking advantage of all of these opportunities," Mayor Linda Tyer said.
The mayor said the city has taken on a number of clean energy projects. She said the city is switching out all of the streetlights to LED to reduce costs and conserve more. 
Polito said those efforts are happening across the state and that Massachusetts is a leader in energy efficiency. She said two-thirds of the cities and towns in the state are part of the Green Communities Act program. The recent environmental bond bill includes $75 million more for cities and towns to address vulnerabilities such as sea walls and dams. 
The $9.6 million announced on Thursday is part of the $40 million Community Clean Energy Resiliency Initiative.
State Sen. Adam Hinds said the increased focus on renewable energy and energy conservation is more than just being environmentally friendly and saving money.
"It is also a statement of who we are as a commonwealth and what our principles are. We heard today our real emphasis and commitment to investing in renewable energy and addressing climate change," Hinds said.
State Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli is the chairman of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture. He said the environment is an important part of the county's economy and that the state's environmental bond bill brings millions back to the Berkshires in environmental projects. 
The hospitals receiving awards include Brigham and Women's Faulkner Hospital, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Heywood Hospital, Lahey Hospital & Medical Center, Milford Regional Medical Center, Tufts Medical Center, University of Massachusetts' Memorial HealthAlliance Hospital and Memorial Medical Center/Memorial Campus.
"We are honored to be among those on the cutting edge, one of only nine in the commonwealth that will have this technology," said Darlene Rodowicz, BMC's chief financial officer.
Gov. Charlie Baker was expected to join Polito in the Berkshires for the announcement but was unable to make it. He had joined Polito in Westfield for an update on broadband expansion followed by a stop at the new MGM casino opening in Springfield. Polito toured the BMC boiler rooms before the announcement and then went to tour the new Taconic High School. She returned to the city's downtown to meet the city's champion Little League team at the Highland Restaurant.

Tags: alternative energy,   BMC,   emergency preparedness,   energy efficiency,   polito,   state officials,   

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New Wahconah High Going Up Fast

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff

School Building Committee co-Chairman Tom Callahan, left, with MSBA Executive Director Jack McCarthy. The old high school is in the background.
DALTON, Mass. — A traditional topping off ceremony was held on Thursday to mark the completion of the steel skeleton for what will be Wahconah Regional High School. 
School officials gathered to mark the milestone with the sounds of construction and sparks from welding giving proof that their vision was being made reality after a  long and arduous process. 
"As far as this building goes, the process by which to make it happen to get the vote was an arduous one," said Principal Aaron Robb. "I would say that this building was willed into existence. Absolutely 100 percent willed into existence."
Robb had only been principal three days when news came that the high school had been accepted into the feasibility stage with the Massachusetts School Building Authority. The four-year process to get to Thursday was fraught with division as the seven towns in the Central Berkshire Regional School District last year weighed the worth of the $72.7 million project.
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