What does it mean to live a principled and sustainable life in the 21st century? At Hancock Shaker Village, we look back to the legacy of the Shakers for answers. Understanding energy consumption is key, both as individuals and as members of a larger national and world community. The Shakers provide both inspiration and practical answers in their use water power, wind power and other renewable energy.

Greenhouse Construction

In September 2012, SABIC Innovative Plastics helped build high-tunnel greenhouses that would allow HSV to expand the season for its community-supported agriculture program (CSA) and provide learning opportunities for visitors. SABIC donated $17,500 and LEXAN™ polycarbonate sheeting, as well as more than 600 hours of volunteer service.  USDA funds aided our purchase of materials for a second greenhouse, and supported the installation of a composting pad.

Photovoltaic Array

In late 2009, Hancock Shaker Village, in partnership with EOS Ventures and Alteris Renewables, installed both ground- and roof-mounted solar panels at its Visitor Center and Center for Shaker Studies complex. Called the Berkshire Bundle, this project is part of a system with six other sites that measures 89.6 killowatts — roughly equivalent to one-third of HSV’s annual consumption of electricity. The panels are connected to the grid with a net metering feature so when the Village generates more power than it needs, it sends electricity back to the grid to be credited for use another time, effectively “running the meter backwards.” Click here to see the system’s hourly, daily and lifetime energy production.

 Biofuel Crops

From 2008 to 2010, Hancock Shaker Village participated in a project to plant, harvest, and evaluate crops used to make biofuels. Managed by UMass research professors and using both land and crops not suitable for food production, less than an acre of reclaimed garden was used to plant Crambe, Switchgrass and Sunflower. To learn how these crops would fare in varying soil types and weather patterns, the same crops were planted at multiple sites throughout Massachusetts. Researchers compared their relative success, including how much care each crop requires, and the expense to grow and harvest them.  The findings are being used to guide farmers who grow biofuel crops, and will help ensure that the Commonwealth leads the way in the development of alternative energies.

Collaborating organizations include the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, the Green Pastures Fund, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Berkshire Biodiesel, Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, Massachusetts Dept. of Agricultural Resources, Massachusetts  Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs, and the Massachusetts Division of Energy Resources.