Harnessing the Wind to Go Green

In 2005, Varian Semiconductor Equipment Associates, Inc. (Varian) was approached by Boreal Renewable Energy Development1 to investigate the feasibility of a wind turbine project. Boreal believed that Varian’s proximity to the ocean and the large size and consistency of its electrical load on the local utility grid would make Varian a good candidate for wind energy.

As an active participant in Massachusetts Electric/National Grid energy conservation programs, Varian had previously implemented many energy efficient measures and installed solar panels to provide supplemental heating to a fire protection water storage tank. It believes renewable energy is important for both energy cost savings and environmental protection. To continue its support of “green” energy alternatives, Varian moved forward to investigate the viability of wind energy and engaged in a wind turbine feasibility study.

Over two years after the start of the project, Varian received final approval to construct two wind turbines, enabling Varian to continue the Gloucester tradition of harnessing the wind for industry.



Varian designs, manufactures, and services semiconductor processing equipment used in the fabrication of integrated circuits. Its world headquarters is located at 35 Dory Road, Gloucester, Massachusetts. Varian is the largest employer in the City of Gloucester, with over 1,700 employees worldwide. 

Varian sought approval from the City of Gloucester to construct two, 2.5 megawatt, ~480 foot tall wind turbines on its property. These turbines are projected to produce 14 million kilowatt hours of power per year, approximately 65% of Varian’s annual use of electricity from National Grid. Varian will be able to use approximately 70% of that power with the remaining 30% being sold back to the grid. The project is estimated to cost Varian over $13 million. 


Wind Turbine Project

Varian contracted with Boreal to develop a wind turbine feasibility study that assessed wildlife and environmental impacts, permitting, electrical interconnection, wind measurement and analysis photo simulation, engineering issues and project return on investment. 

The study determined that the wind turbines are technically and economically justified for Varian. Its facility is located at the highest point in Gloucester and has strong and sustained wind resources. Its property provides a sufficient area to install the turbines and has a buffer from residential property, and Varian’s energy consumption of over 20 million kilowatt hours per year makes the installation of wind turbines a viable project from an economic standpoint. 

Resources and Return on Investment

“The process of studying, planning and permitting a large wind energy project is long and complicated. It is essential to partner with a team of experts and call on local resources to help guide you through each step so you have the data needed to obtain permits and approvals,” noted Rick Johnson, Varian’s Director of Facilities.  

A project of this magnitude relies on the ability to pull together significant resources, both from an expert and financial perspective. By joining wind energy groups and associations, Varian was able to meet key experts in the field of wind energy and current wind energy participants, access local wind turbine installations data and research accessible wind study grants and available tax breaks. Through the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MTC) Renewable Energy Trust3, Varian initially received a $40,000 “cost share” grant in 2006 to study the feasibility of installing two wind turbines. In 2007, it subsequently received a second MTC grant for $575,000 to design and construct the two wind turbines. Both of these grants were part of the Large Onsite Renewables Initiative.
Once it received the results of the wind turbine feasibility study and evaluated the expected return on investment, Varian made the decision to implement the project. In addition to the grant money received, Varian committed to self-fund the balance of this project. PRN 


1 Boreal Renewable Energy Development, Epsilon Associates Incorporated, Richard C. Gross P.E., Inc., Symmes Maini & McKee Associates, STV Incorporated, Lorax Energy Systems, LLC, BlueWave Strategies, Saratoga Associates, Woodlot Alternatives, Inc., The Louis Berger Group, Woodard & Curran, Comsearch, Sustainable Energy Developments, Inc., Haley & Aldrich, Kema, Inc., Wind Engineers, Inc., and Gloucester attorney J. Michael Faherty

2 Feasibility Study for Wind Turbine Installation at Varian Semiconductor Equipment Associates, Inc. (http://www.masstech.org/Project%20Deliverables/GB_CII_Feasibility_VarianWind.pdf)

3 Massachusetts Technology Collaborative Renewable Energy Trust (http://www.masstech.org/RenewableEnergy/Community_Wind/index.htm)

This is excerpted from PR News' Going Green: Case Studies in Outstanding Green Business Practices. It was written by Rick Johnson, director of facilities for Varian Semiconductor Equipment Associates. To order this book or learn more about it, please visit www.prnewsonline.com/store.