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Berkshire Medical Center Secures State Grant For Energy Resiliency

Josh Landes
As Secretary of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Matthew Beaton (L) looks on, Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito speaks at Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, Massachusetts Thursday.

Politicians from around the state gathered in Pittsfield, Massachusetts today as Berkshire Medical Center was awarded grant money.

$670,000 of state funding was awarded to Berkshire Medical Center as part of a grant program promoted by the Republican Baker-Polito administration.

“Today’s event was announcing over $9 million for nine hospitals throughout the commonwealth to upgrade the resiliency of their facilities," said Matthew Beaton, the Secretary of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. He said the money is coming out of the state’s Community Clean Energy Resiliency Initiative, which is bringing $40 million to similar projects around the state.

“If there’s a large scale power outage, they’re able to black start and island themselves essentially, to be able to keep critical facilities and critical operations up and running during times of electricity shortage or electricity drop out in the regular grid,” Beaton told WAMC. He praised the BMC grant application, saying "it just was the perfect fit, it was a very well done application that was very thoughtful and very real."

“We had to complete a grant talking about the amount of power we use at the hospital, how much of that power would be covered by this resiliency, and how it would help us make our patient units much more able to stay in the building in the event of the emergency," said Joseph LaRoche, Vice President of Facilities & Construction Services at Berkshire Health Systems. He spearheaded the hospital’s application for the grant, which is meant to fortify BMC’s energy independence.

“Were we to lose our emergency generations and city power, this will allow us to run and convert that power over to our cogeneration plant and allow the hospital to continue to maintain its services,” he told WAMC.

Cogeneration is also known as combined heat and power, when electricity and heat are generated at the same time. LaRoche, also the chair of Pittsfield’s green commission, says the upgrades will reduce the hospital’s need for over 700 kilowatt hours of electricity a year — upwards of half a million dollars in savings.

“So it’s a standby power system that also generates enough power on its own through natural gas to reduce our electricity pull from the grid,” said LaRoche.

While Republican Governor Charlie Baker cancelled his scheduled appearance in the Berkshires, Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito was on hand to laud the hospital’s improvements.

“Your $3 million investment there definitely will have a quick return and be able to drive those dollars back into the services you provide here, so thank you for being a leader and joining up with the other hospitals who we are recognizing today,” said Polito at the announcement.

Acknowledging the need for renewable energy initiatives in the climate change era, Polito recognized Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer for the city’s investments in the field. Polito tied them into other projects afoot in Pittsfield.

“I want to the thank the mayor — the city looks fantastic, I was so proud with you driving down the main street and seeing it so alive and well with so much opportunity everywhere, from your innovation center that we recently celebrated together to the Taconic High School that we’re going to visit next,” said the Lieutenant Governor.

“It’s really exciting because it reflects the commitment that the hospital — our biggest employer, taking care of the most people in our county — is making to environmental and energy savings," said Mayor Tyer, who used the announcement to bring up another city initiative around energy independence. “It reflects the partnership that we hope to link up with when we go through our feasibility study for our own microgrid in our downtown corridor.”

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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