GCC celebrates $100,000 solar grant

From The Greenfield Recorder – September 25, 2012 – By Chris Shores

GCC President Bob Pura (3rd from right) accepts a $100,000 grant from Paul Curran, Managing Director of SunEdison, to support education and training in the solar energy sector. Federal New Market Tax Credits, allocated by CEI Capital Management, provided financing to construct the 2 MW Solar Energy Facility in Greenfield and this community benefit support of GCC’s renewable energy programs. Pictured left to right: Common Capital CEO Chris Sikes, Greenfield Mayor Bill Martin, State Representative Paul Mark, CEI Capital Management CEO Charles Spies, US Congressmen Jim McGovern and John Olver, Curran, Pura, State Representative Steve Kulik and GCC Dean Peter Rosnick.

GREENFIELD — Greenfield Community College has received a $100,000 grant from private investors to help fund the school’s renewable energy/energy efficiency program. The grant — funded by solar energy company SunEdison as part of the $8 million 2.0-megawatt solar farm project built on the town’s capped landfill — will help pay for solar energy education and training at the college.

GCC President Robert Pura said that there is no longer a debate about the need to invest in solar energy and to find ways to make it more affordable for the masses. “The question is not if higher education should build green sustainable energy programs,” he told a group of legislators, educators and investors in front of the college Monday. “It’s to what degree are colleges really committed to the ideas that faculty and students are practicing every day. We want to reduce the gap between what they teach and how we act, this helps us make that commitment.”

The renewable energy/energy efficiency program, created three years ago, teaches students about alternative energy sources and connects them with internships in the field. While grant money will be used to help the academic program across the board, school officials said it will specifically focus on creating a solar energy training program that will help graduates gain employment in that field.

When SunEdison borrowed money from CEI Capital Management for the town’s solar farm project, the company agreed to give $100,000 of that money to GCC. Rep. Stephen Kulik, D-Worthington, praised the collaboration between Greenfield, GCC, SunEdison and other private investors.

“A project like this at the college says, ‘This kind of investment (in energy-efficiency initiatives) is good,’” said Kulik. “It broadens people’s perspectives and acceptance of sustainable and wise uses of energy. I commend the college for that public example and also for the educational opportunities you’re providing people to get into this field.”

And U.S. Rep. James McGovern, D-Worcester, said that education of alternative energy sources is critical to the country’s future. “There are some people who believe we shouldn’t go down this road, that we should stick to the old way. The old way unfortunately has contaminated much of our environment,” said McGovern. “I believe what we’re doing here is leading not only Massachusetts but the rest of the country. This is where we need to go, this is the future.”