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NEW: Utility Giant Gives $5.6M to UMass for Power Plant Expansion

Monday, April 09, 2012


Left to right, John O'Brien, Memorial Health Care; Marcy Reed, National Grid; and Michael Collins, UMass Medical School

The $400-million construction of the Albert Sherman Center at UMass Medical School would literally go nowhere without the energy of the power plant behind it.

It’s about to get a whole lot more powerful on the strength of a $5.6-million assist from National Grid toward expansion of the school’s on-site power plant. The 14,000-square-foot expansion will enable the plant to provide electricity to the medical school, UMass Medical Center, the 500,000-square foot Sherman Center and the Aaron Lazare Research Building. It will provide heat and cooling for the entire UMass campus. The project is being touted as an initiative that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well.

“We believe it is incumbent on us to lead by example and manage our growth in ways that limit the impact on our environment,” UMass Medical School Chancellor Michael Collins said to about 70-80 UMass representatives and state officials, including state Sen. Harriette Chandler, D-Worcester. “It takes strong partnerships to meet these challenges. National Grid’s incentive program allows us to focus on making investments for the long-term by introducing cleaner technologies to our campus that will pay dividends … for decades to come.”

That, he said, is why the school chose to partner with National Grid on the expansion. The project could have been done cheaper had the school pursued other alternatives, he acknowledged.

National Grid Massachusetts President Marcy Reed said the company was “delighted” to be a part of the project.

“(The company) is passionate about sustainability and its stewardship of our region’s energy resources,” she said. “UMass has a long history of championing and implementing energy-efficient measures and is truly leading by example.”

Speaking with GoLocalWorcester after her presentation, Reed was asked how it might look that National Grid, which has been roundly criticized in many communities for its lengthy delays in responding to power outages and emergencies, is giving more than $5 million to the city’s largest employer while there remain so many concerns among its customers. The city council, for example, recently met with National Grid representatives about many of its concerns. The UMass project, she said, is just one thing the company does to help the city.

“We are totally aware of the issues,” Reed said. “We are working in close collaboration with the city. What has really occurred is the city council has shined a light on these topics. I welcome that.”

She referred to National Grid’s pilot program in Worcester that is outfitting 5,000 customers with new meters as part of a larger attempt to gauge power usage and address response times. That project is still awaiting regulatory approval.

“Absolutely, people expect their lights to come on all the time,” she said. “I’m hoping we have the opportunity to continue the dialogue and continue to address these issues.”

In the meantime, National Grid is putting up big money for just the second expansion of a power plant that was built in 1973. Construction came three years after the first class of medical students walked onto campus in 1970. They graduated in 1974.

The new turbine is fueled by natural gas. An attached generator on one end will produce electricity. On the other end, a heat recovery steam generator will produce approximately 60,000 pounds of high-pressure steam per hour. The steam will drive two of the plant’s existing electric generators, provide heat to buildings and drive compressors that chill the water for the campus cooling systems.

“The UMass Building Authority (UMBA) strives to deliver cost-effective and energy-efficient construction of world-class facilities like the Sherman Center,” UMBA Executive Director Katherine Craven said. “We are grateful for partners like National Grid who share our commitment to the environment.”

A more environmentally-friendly and efficient power system is a win not just for UMass, according to John O’Brien, president and CEO of UMass Memorial Healthcare, but the overall well-being of the healthcare system.

“By becoming more efficient in the way we produce and consume power and energy,” O’Brien said, “we can help to reduce expenses, which helps to ultimately reduce the overall cost of healthcare.”

The Sherman Center is scheduled to open this year and will feature as its centerpiece the Advanced Therapeutics Cluster, which will focus on addressing debilitating diseases.


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