WMECO grant for BCC in excess of $200,000


Tuesday March 29, 2011

PITTSFIELD -- Berkshire Community College was seeking the funds to buy equipment for its new training center for careers in clean and sustainable energy.

Northeast Utilities, the parent company of the Western Massachusetts Electric Co., is interested in training the community's future work force.

Together, they turned out to be a perfect match.

BCC on Monday formally announced that it had received a $201,067 grant from the Northeast Utilities Foundation to fund the purchase of training equipment and educational facilities for its new facility, which is expected to be open by January 2012.

According to WMECO President and CEO Peter J. Clarke, this is the largest grant that the Northeast Utilities Foundation has ever awarded to an entity in Western Massachusetts.

"It hit on the three core elements of our foundation: education, work force development, and environmental stewardship," said Clarke, who is also a foundation board member. "We just saw that it was a great fit for what the foundation invests in and it was a well thought out, well put together proposal."

BCC President Paul Raverta said the college will use the money to buy wind and solar training systems, biofuel and weatherization laboratory equipment, and a solar energy computer laboratory. Northeast Utilities has also offered to match an additional $100,000 if BCC can raise that amount, Raverta said.

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The BCC Foundation, the college's nonprofit charitable organization that is set up to receive grants, will serve as the "custodian" of the Northeast Utilities funding and will make it available to the college, foundation president Jeffrey Doscher said.

The college received $750,000 in federal funding in 2009 to convert the 35-year-old Ralph Hoffman Environmental Center on its West Street campus into a sustainable energy resource training center. Construction is expected to begin in June.

Raverta said the grant funding gives BCC the flexibility to increase its capacity to prepare current and future generations of workers for clean energy careers and provide a model laboratory for work force training certifications in solar, wind and weatherization.

"Our new training center, along with all of the other green occurring at BCC, creates a living laboratory as we become teachers and practitioners of sustainable energy," Raverta said. "Today, every job needs a little dose of green.

"Without the equipment purchased with the grant funding from the Northeast Utilities, the sustainable energy center is not possible," he said.

State Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, who chairs the telecommunications, utilities and energy committee, said he is interested in developing every possible answer for the energy challenges this region will face.

"I look forward to the answers that will come out of this building in Pittsfield," Downing said.

WMECO last October opened the $9.2 million Silver Lake Solar Facility in Pittsfield, which is the largest of its kind in New England.

To reach Tony Dobrowolski:,
or (413) 496-6224.


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