CommonWealth: “Cheap, clean energy stirring interest in Holyoke”

As a resolution to preserve Upper Roberts Meadow Dam comes before Northampton’s City Council tomorrow, it’s worth noting how locally-produced green energy helped Holyoke attract its upcoming high-performance computing center. Bruce Mohl writes for CommonWealth magazine:

Cheap, clean energy stirring interest in Holyoke (7/27/10)
Holyoke, one of the poorest cities in Massachusetts, hasn’t attracted any significant business development in a long time. But companies are starting to show interest in the old mill town because its municipal utility has something they want: electricity that—because it’s predominantly hydro and nuclear—is the cheapest in New England and largely carbon-free.

A consortium of high-profile universities and companies is planning to open an $80 million high-performance computing center in downtown Holyoke in late 2012 that will connect to the campuses using existing fiber optic lines. The center is expected to use 7.5 megawatts of electricity initially, growing to 15 megawatts after five years, or nearly a quarter of the existing electricity load of the city of 40,000 people…

Lavelle said Holyoke will sell power to the computing center at the industrial rate of 8.4 cents per kilowatt hour, the lowest in New England and less than half of what it would cost in Boston and Cambridge. Price is not the only selling point. Lavelle says the municipal utility produces on average 100 pounds of carbon dioxide for every megawatt hour of electricity it generates; the New England average is 10 times as much, or 1,000 pounds per megawatt, he says…

Claude Canizares, vice president for research at MIT, said the university was starting to run out of computing space two years ago when it began reviewing its options. It came across Holyoke and liked the fact that the city offered cheap, clean power, had access to fiber optic lines, and was located at a New England crossroads, the intersection of the Massachusetts Turnpike and I-91.
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See also:

Website: Save the Chesterfield Road Dam  

LaBarge, Spector and Tacy Propose Resolution to Preserve Upper Roberts Meadow Dam (8/13/10)

Video Highlights: BPW on the Dam, Landfill (6/30/10)
In this first 7-minute segment, Ward 7 City Councilor Gene Tacy urges the Board to support hydropower generation on the Mill River system. A network of hydro stations at several dams could collectively generate hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of green electricity per year, and the Upper Roberts Meadow dam and reservoir could be preserved. John Clapp and Dee Boyle-Clapp of Save Our Dam then debate with Board Chair Terry Culhane about whether the friends of the dam are making the progress the Board wants to see.

Gazette: “Advocates dig in to save Northampton dam” (6/30/10)

Video: Board of Public Works Not Keen to Save Chesterfield Road Dam (6/12/10)

Northampton Media: “Dueling Engineers: Can Micro-Hydro Save the Dam?”  (5/15/10)