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Solar project construction started in Massachusetts

First Wind has begun construction on 17 megawatts (MW) of solar projects in the Massachusetts communities of Warren and Millbury. Representing the company’s first set of renewable energy projects in its home state and its first solar development, First Wind is breaking ground after it recently secured financing and finalized a long-term power purchase agreement (PPA) with the University of Massachusetts (UMass), as well as net metering agreements with the towns of Millbury and Orange.

First Wind’s solar project portfolio in Massachusetts will include a 3 MW project in Millbury and a 14 MW project at three sites in the town of Warren. The combined Warren projects will comprise the second-largest solar project in Massachusetts. Construction activities will be a source of economic activity for the local economies by creating roughly 85 construction-related jobs and driving spending with local businesses. The projects will represent a significant investment in Massachusetts and the communities along with millions of dollars in construction, materials and development costs.

Once the projects are online, First Wind will make annual tax payments to each of the towns, which will provide additional revenue to the communities – $130,000 in taxes annually for Warren and $50,000 annually for Millbury. First Wind has also committed to contribute conservation land within the host communities.

The majority of the power generated from the four projects will be delivered to the Lowell and Medical Center campuses of UMass via a long-term PPA. Through these solar projects, UMass will save more than $1 million in annual energy costs, or a total of more than $30 million over the course of the 30 year agreement.

The agreement is part of a larger UMass initiative to cut energy costs and reduce its carbon footprint, and it also supports the Commonwealth’s ambitious solar energy goals. After reaching the state’s goal 4 years early of 250 MW of solar energy installed in May 2013, Governor Patrick recently announced a new goal of 1,600 MW of solar power by 2020.

In addition to UMass, the towns of Millbury and Orange have agreed to purchase a smaller portion of the energy generated by the projects. Orange will realize more than $85,000 a year in electricity savings, while Millbury will see annual savings of $110,000.