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, both as individuals and as members of a larger world community, is a key issue. We look to the Shakers’ use of water power, wind power and other renewable energy sources as an inspiration for how we run the Village today.
In September 2012, SABIC Innovative Plastics helped us build high-tunnel greenhouses that would allow us to expand our CSA season and provide learning opportunities for visitors. We thank SABIC for its donation of $17,500, along with LEXAN™ polycarbonate sheeting and 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.
In late 2009, Hancock Shaker Village, in partnership with EOS Ventures and Alteris Renewables, installed both ground- and roof-mounted solar panels at our Visitor Center 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 electricity consumption. Hancock Shaker Village did not pay for and does not own the equipment, but rather entered into a Power Purchase Agreement with the system’s owner for a period of 20 years. The panels are connected to the grid with a net metering feature – if we generate more power than we actually need on a given day, then we send electricity to the grid and are credited for use at another time, effectively “running the meter backwards.” Click here to see the system’s hourly, daily and lifetime energy production.
From 2008 to 2010, Hancock Shaker Village participated in a three-year project to plant, harvest, and evaluate crops used to make biofuels. Managed by UMass research professors, the project used crops that are not suitable for food production and land that was not being used for food production. In a reclaimed Shaker garden of just under an acre, Crambe, Switchgrass and Sunflower were planted. To learn how these crops fare in varying soil types and weather patterns, the same crops were planted at multiple sites throughout Massachusetts so that researchers could determine tjheir relative success, including how much care they require, and the expense to grow and harvest them. Their findings are being used to encourage farmers to grow biofuel crops, and to help ensure that Massachusetts continues to lead the way in developing alternative energies.
Collaborating Organizations: Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation from the Green Pastures Fund, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Berkshire Biodiesel, Mass. Technology Collaborative, Mass. Dept. of Agricultural Resources, Mass. Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs, Mass. Division of Energy Resources.