Dismas House: Micro-Wind Turbine Feasibility Study Executive Summary


Organization Background

Dismas House of Massachusetts is a non-profit organization that seeks “to reconcile former prisoners to society, and society to former prisoners, through the development of a supportive community”(Dismas House). The organization consists of three facilities in Central Massachusetts: Dismas House, Dismas Family Farm and The Father Brooks House. For the project, our team focused specifically on the Dismas Family Farm.

As part of an initiative to become more self-reliant, the organization seeks to reduce their energy costs through energy efficiency to allocate more financial resources to their programs. Currently, each location has implemented solar panels that have the ability to generate energy credit. Dismas House is now considering wind energy to increase energy generation.

Project Goal and Objectives

The main goal of our project was to determine the feasibility of installing an affordable micro-wind turbine on Dismas House property. There are three objectives to complete this goal. Objective one examined the proposed sites to determine the optimum site location with respect to wind speeds, environmental effects, and social impacts. Our second objective explored funding opportunities to aid in feasibility and implementation of a micro-wind turbine. Lastly, the third objective identified characteristics and compared performance of micro-wind turbine designs. Three micro-wind models were considered based on feasibility and economic options.


The project determined the feasibility of installing an affordable micro-wind turbine on Dismas House property. There were three objectives:

  1. Examine the proposed sites to determine the optimum site location with respect to wind speeds, environmental impact, and social influence.
  2. Review funding opportunities to aid in feasibility and implementation of a micro-wind turbine.
  3. Identify favorable characteristics of micro-wind turbines and evaluate models based on feasibility and economic options.

Objective 1: Site Assessment

To meet objective one, we compiled photographic documentation, researched zoning bylaws, and conducted structured interviews to complete a baseline assessment. Photographs were taken at the farm to document potential turbine placement and obstacles. Research of the zoning laws for Oakham, MA provided our team with site restrictions for turbine placement and installation. Average and maximum wind speeds from local weather stations were examined to estimate wind speeds on the farm. Interviews were administered with Dismas Family Farm residents to document any concerns related to installation of a micro-wind turbine. These tasks provided our team with a baseline to determine feasibility.

Objective 2: Financial Savings and Funding Opportunities

To complete objective two, our team conducted archival research and research on external funding opportunities. The Dismas House energy archives provided the team with knowledge about energy expenses, specifically electricity. Extensive research of current funding opportunities provided Dismas House with financial options to aid in the installation of a micro-wind turbine. Private and state grants were examined, which provided the Dismas organization with various funding opportunities. These financial options will supply the Dismas organization with additional funding once they select a micro-wind turbine for implementation.

Objective 3: Comparison of Models

To complete objective three, 39 micro-wind turbine models from allsmallwindturbines.com were reviewed. The provided data was compiled. Turbines were ranked based on the following characteristics: rotor diameter, rated power output, swept area, area affected by shadow flicker, and cut-in wind speed. Smaller values were desired in each category, with the exception of rated power output. The summation of scores across these five categories allowed collective ranking of the reviewed models. After ranking, three potential models were selected.


For this section our team will explain our project’s findings.

Site Baseline

In the site baseline assessment, locations where a micro-wind turbine cannot be implemented were identified. This was accomplished through mapping of the farm. It was determined that the land 1,200 feet north of the main house was unusable for turbine implementation because it is not owned by Dismas House. The roof of the barn was identified as a potential location due to the higher elevation relative to the surrounding area.

Wind Studies

Average wind speed data was collected from six weather stations in surrounding towns. The wind speed data from these locations provided a basic understanding of the wind speeds in the area of the farm. It was found that the wind speeds recorded at the Worcester Regional Airport were much higher than at other locations. This difference might be caused by more accurate equipment at Worcester Regional Airport than other stations. Another possible reason for the difference in wind speeds may be anemometer location. The airport is an open area on top of a hill that has fewer obstacles to wind flow. The other locations may be in areas with trees or buildings that obstruct the wind near the anemometer.

Social and Environmental Impact

Interviews were conducted to understand the potential social and environmental effects from installation of a wind turbine. During interviews with Dismas Family Farm residents, Stevens Farm, and Holy Name High School topics concerning avian life, noise, green energy, and shadow flicker were discussed. Discussion about avian life, shadow flicker, and noise revealed minimum concerns for wind turbine implementation. For both Stevens Farm and Holy Name High School, avian life was not affected. Shadow flicker and noise were also not an issue for those surrounding the turbines. All interviewees agreed green energy provides a strong option to reduce energy costs. Due to the information discovered during these interviews, our team concluded these potential issues will be minor factors when considering a micro-wind turbine.

Financial Savings

The Dismas House has made a conscious effort to reduce their budget allocated towards energy. Once a list of grants was received along with energy usage data from the past five years, our team analyzed energy costs. We reviewed the total energy usage and cost through analysis of the Dismas WeGoWise account. Our team compared total energy usage with total energy cost to determine the amount of finances allocated towards each individual utility. Fuel oil no longer contributes to the total expenses because fuel oil was replaced by the pellet stove. Therefore, electricity costs compose the majority of Dismas House energy expenses. The installation of solar panels has reduced electrical costs. Advancement in wind energy will reduce energy costs, ultimately supplying the Dismas organization with more funds to allocate towards their residents.

Associated Grant Makers

Our team reviewed 169 potential grant opportunities from Associated Grant Makers. The raw data provided information including title, state, and contact information. To separate grants into a spectrum, ranging from those best suited to Dismas House needs and those not, a score rubric was used. Categories were determined based on the provided raw materials and the sponsor need. These categories were determined to be the grant focus, geographic influence, limitations, and application style. Grants that could not be readily accessed through research were not reviewed due to the scope and timeline of the project. Through review of the grants, the top 20 grants were identified and suggested to Dismas House directors.

Massachusetts CEC Grant

In particular, our team reviewed the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (CEC) Micro-Wind rebate program. The program outlines the expectations for selected turbine models, installer requirements, power output criteria, and installation requirements. Key expectations require the installation to be conducted by a licensed professional electrician, and that the turbine meets specifications. The rebate program also requires that a feasibility study be conducted. The Massachusetts CEC clearly outlines the program expectations and provides all documents for potential applicants. The significance of this grant is the ease of application and the focus of the grant. As this grant has open applications and is specifically focused on the implementation of micro-wind turbines and applicants in Massachusetts, it fits the majority of criteria.

Model Comparison

The models reviewed were limited to those with a rotor diameter of 6 meters or less. This limit was selected to account for the assumed placement of the turbine on top of the barn structure. Following the compilation of data, all 39 models were ranked according to the summation of rated power output, rotor diameter, swept area, area affected by shadow flicker, and cut-in wind speed rankings. To provide a variety of model designs for Dismas House, the top HAWT, VAWT Darrieus, and VAWT Savonius models were considered.


Through our feasibility study, it was determined that there is not enough information to support the immediate implementation of a micro-wind turbine. Specifically, there is no wind speed data directly from the farm’s location. To gather this data, Dismas House should place an anemometer on top of the barn structure. The implementation of an anemometer will allow for Dismas House to collect wind speed data particular to the farm location. This will aid in the pursuit of future feasibility studies and grants.

The roof of the barn at the Dismas Family Farm is believed to be the ideal location for wind turbine implementation due to the increased elevation and close proximity to the electrical grid. We recommend that Dismas House hire a professional structural engineer to evaluate and ensure that the barn’s structure will be able to support the weight and vibrations caused by a turbine. This is crucial to prevent collapse of the barn.

We also recommend that Dismas House hire a professional to conduct another feasibility study following the collection of wind speed data. This will provide the professional detailed information for further analysis and research into implementation. This hired professional will aid in the pursuit of grants, such as those through the Massachusetts CEC.