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In the news: Environment

Citizens Energy completes WHATELY solar farm: Citizens Energy has completed its solar farm in Whately, which will provide cheaper power to the Franklin County jail and generate new income for the town. The 1.8-megawatt renewable energy project, located on 10 acres, will produce more than 2 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, with all the power dedicated to the Franklin County Jail and House of Correction on Elm Street in Greenfield.

Joseph P. Kennedy II, founder and chairman of the Boston nonprofit Citizens Energy, said the project will prevent the release of more than 2,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions yearly from fossil-fuel power plants.

“Revenues from this project will also be used to help the poor with their energy needs and finance new projects to invest in,” he said in a statement. The solar facility will save the sheriff’s office more than $600,000 on its electricity bills over its lifetime, allowing more resources to be put toward crime prevention and inmate rehabilitation, officials have said.

In July 2011, Citizens Energy received a special permit from the town for construction of a solar farm on 14.6 acres on Szawloski Farms at 288 State Road. The nonprofit leases the land for 25 years.

Szawlowski Potato Farms will use revenue from solar lease payments to support its farming operations. It also installed rooftop solar collectors on one of its distribution facilities.

Citizens Energy, launched in 1979, uses innovative ventures in the energy and other industries to generate revenues that are channeled to assistance programs for the poor and the elderly, including its signature Heating Oil Program, which has provided millions of Americans with free and discount heating oil for more than 30 years.

Citizens Solar, a division of Citizens Energy, has developed half a dozen utility-scale solar projects in recent years and is working to expand its renewable energy portfolio.

The Whately solar farm is one of several installed or under way in Franklin County using government tax credits intended to encourage investment in alternative electricity production. The town of Greenfield has hosted a solar farm that has cut the municipal electric bill in half this year.

— Recorder staff

PERMACULTURE GARDEN NEWS: The permaculture gardens at the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus are recruiting volunteers to help this summer. People can stop in at the regular volunteer hours on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 8 a.m. to noon. Participants start at the Franklin Garden at 8 a.m. then head to other sites. For more information, email info@UMassPermaculture.com.

• Also, the UMass Permaculture Initiative is accepting applications for the UMass Permaculture Committee, a three-credit internship. The interns work to connect the campus community with the program’s “whole systems approach to moving beyond sustainability.” For an application, email info@UMassPermaculture.com.

• On June 23, the UMass Permaculture Initiative will sponsor a talk by Majora Carter as part of its second-annual Permaculture Your Campus conference, which runs June 23-26 on campus. It gathers people from academia and business. For more information, visit http://www.UMassPermacultureConference.com.

Carter’s talk is called “Home(Town) Security” and takes place at the Campus Center Auditorium from 6-8:30 p.m. Tickets are available for purchase at http://UMassMajoraCarter.eventbrite.com. She is an urban revitalization strategy consultant, real estate developer and Peabody Award-winning broadcaster involved in green-infrastructure projects.

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