Western Massachusetts Electric Co. (WMECo) announced its plan todevelop the first of several large-scale solar energy facilities.
Theselected site on Silver Lake Boulevard combines two parcels of landowned by WMECo and the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority (PEDA)at the William Stanley Business Park. The eight-acre site willaccommodate up to 1.8 megawatts (MW) of solar capacity.
WMECoofficials joined local officials and PEDA representatives in announcingthe agreement to combine these brownfield properties into one of thelargest solar facilities in New England.
"Today’s announcementprovides tangible evidence that large-scale solar is becoming a realityin the Commonwealth," said Peter Clarke, WMECo president and chiefoperating officer. "We’re delighted to be working in partnership withPittsfield on this exciting project," Clarke said.
"Solar energyfacilities like these will provide the platform necessary todemonstrate that solar can play a viable role in meeting the renewableenergy needs of the Commonwealth while contributing to the economicdevelopment of the region," Clarke said.
"On behalf of the Cityand PEDA, we’re pleased to partner with WMECo in bringing costeffective renewable energy to the Berkshires," said Pittsfield MayorJames M. Ruberto.
"Integrating renewable energy projects withthe redevelopment of these brownfield properties is a win-win for ourCity and a valuable contribution toward the Commonwealth’s energy andenvironmental objectives," Ruberto said.
The Commonwealth has agoal to install 250 megawatts of solar by 2017. Under the landmarkGreen Communities Act (GCA), each Massachusetts electric utility mayown up to 50 MW of solar generation, subject to approval by theDepartment of Public Utilities (DPU).
WMECo is the firstutility to receive DPU approval and is currently authorized to install6 MW of solar. The Company’s solar program reflects a closecollaboration with the Attorney General’s office and other keyMassachusetts and industry stakeholders.
WMECo’s Silver LakeBoulevard project combines a six-acre parcel owned by the utility and atwo-acre parcel in the William Stanley Business Park. A WMECosubstation is situated between the two parcels, providing an efficientconnection to the utility’s local distribution system.
Large-scalesolar energy facilities are still relatively new to Massachusetts andNew England. Approximately 10 MW of solar generation is currentlyon-line in the Commonwealth. Comprised of approximately 1,100individual photovoltaic systems, the largest one is approximately 500kilowatts (0.5 MW).
WMECo’s first solar project can be as largeas 1.8 MW and the Company expects it to cost considerably less thanexisting photovoltaic systems.
The project will bring $10-12Mof construction to the region and is expected to contribute more than$200,000 of annual property tax revenue to the city of Pittsfield.Pittsfield is one of the two Gateway Communities in WMECo’s serviceterritory and is home to some 24,000 WMECo customers.
Localpermitting for the project is underway and WMECo expects to beginconstruction in the second quarter of this year. The Company continuesto evaluate other sites for the remaining scope of its 6 MW solarprogram.
WMECo’s solar program focuses on larger-scalefacilities (1 MW or greater), emphasizing landfill, brownfield andutility-owned properties as ideal locations.
Such propertiestypically have few alternative uses and are very compatible with theconstruction of solar energy facilities. WMECo also seeks to developthe market for larger-scale solar facilities — the company’s programmakes extensive use of competitive bidding and relies heavily on theexpertise of the solar industry.
WMECo has currently qualified 16 solar firms to bid on its projects.
TheCompany is also evaluating 25 sites owned by municipalities and privatedevelopers located in WMECo’s service territory. The Company expects todraw upon these prospective sites as it develops additional projectsduring 2010. WMECo will complete the remainder of its 6 MW program by2012.