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Franklin: Abbey's nuns win green energy award

November 12, 2013

By Matt Tota/Daily News staff

Milford Daily News

Posted Nov 12, 2013 @ 12:00 AM



The cloistered sisters of Mount St. Mary’s Abbey liken themselves to stewards of nature, and as part of that commitment, they live a pastoral lifestyle.

Yet in recent years the Cistercian nuns have taken their vow a step further: They’ve embraced with open arms the latest in renewable energy technology.

A 130-foot-tall wind turbine looms beside the sheep pasture. Just beyond it, in a great field, steel brackets support 12,000 photovoltaic panels. And below the monastery chapel, a geothermal energy system provides heat to the Trappistine Quality Candy factory where the nuns make their popular milk and dark chocolate squares.

Last month the Mass Energy Consumer Alliance recognized the sisters’ green energy push by awarding them the "Energy Leadership Award" at its annual meeting in Boston.

In a statement, Larry Chretien, executive director of Mass Energy, said, "We decided to give the sisters at Mount St. Mary’s an Energy Leadership Award because they decided to generate renewable energy from not just one source but three – wind, solar, and geothermal. They’ve done a great deal to help save the planet and create jobs in the clean energy industry."

The abbey, which occupies land in Wrentham and Franklin, had the turbine installed in 2009 for roughly $525,000. The sisters raised $300,000 through fundraisers and candy sales, while the rest came via a grant from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative.

The first half of what will become an 8.4-megawatt solar farm was completed last month on abbey land off Upper Union Street. Eventually the farm will power about 70 percent of the town’s municipal and school buildings, and the town will save about 10 percent on its overall energy costs.

Kearsarge Energy, a developer based in Watertown, has leased the land from the nuns through 2033. The initial payment was $116,000.

Mother Maureen McCabe, of the abbey, said the monastery welcomed the solar farm idea.

"We were looking for a responsible way to manage our fields, and solar energy seemed a very good option," McCabe said. "The fact that it benefits the town is a very great joy for us. We also desired to benefit from the simpler, cleaner and cheaper energy produced by our own wind turbine."

Mary Jo Finkenstaedt, the director of marketing for Trappistine Quality Candy, said that the sisters desire a simple life "without a lot of excess or material goods, which goes hand in hand with the idea of green energy and preserving your resources."

"Green energy is right up their alley," Finkenstaedt said, "because it’s all about not using the Earth’s resources in a gluttonous way; it’s about taking what you need and giving something back."

The abbey, 300 Arnold St. in Wrentham, will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Dec. 7 for the solar array.


Matt Tota can be reached at 508-634-7521 or mtota@wickedlocal.com.

More: http://www.milforddailynews.com/news/x348807757/Franklin-Abbeys-nuns-win-green-energy-award#ixzz2lsxWkSrB