Massachusetts energy company finds solar site
Western Massachusetts Electric Company has
announced its plan to develop the first of several large-scale
solar energy facilities. The selected site on Silver Lake Boulevard
combines two parcels of land owned by WMECo and the Pittsfield
Economic Development Authority (PEDA) at the William Stanley
Business Park. The 8-acre site will accommodate up to 1.8 megawatts
(MW) of solar capacity.
WMECo officials joined local officials and PEDA representatives
in announcing the agreement to combine these brownfield properties
into one of the largest solar facilities in New England.
The Commonwealth has a goal to install 250 MW of solar by 2017.
Under the landmark Green Communities Act, each Massachusetts
electric utility may own up to 50 MW of solar generation, subject
to approval by the Department of Public Utilities.
WMECo is the first utility to receive DPU approval and is currently
authorized to install 6 MW of solar. The Company’s solar program
reflects a close collaboration with the Attorney General’s office
and other key Massachusetts and industry stakeholders.
WMECo’s Silver Lake Boulevard project combines a six-acre parcel
owned by the utility and a two-acre parcel in the William Stanley
Business Park. A WMECo substation is situated between the two
parcels, providing an efficient connection to the utility’s local
Large-scale solar energy facilities are still relatively new
to Massachusetts and New England. Approximately 10 MW of solar
generation is currently on-line in the Commonwealth. Comprised
of approximately 1,100 individual photovoltaic systems, the largest
one is approximately 500 kilowatts (0.5 MW). WMECo’s first solar
project can be as large as 1.8 MW and the Company expects it
to cost considerably less than existing photovoltaic systems.
The project will bring $10-12 million of 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 service territory
and is home to some 24,000 WMECo customers.
Local permitting for the project is underway and WMECo expects
to begin construction in the second quarter of this year. The
Company continues to evaluate other sites for the remaining scope
of its 6 MW solar program.
WMECo’s solar program focuses on larger-scale facilities (1 MW
or greater), emphasizing landfill, brownfield and utility-owned
properties as ideal locations. Such properties typically have
few alternative uses and are very compatible with the construction
of solar energy facilities. WMECo also seeks to develop the market
for larger-scale solar facilities – the Company’s program makes
extensive use of competitive bidding and relies heavily on the
expertise of the solar industry.
WMECo has currently qualified 16 solar firms to bid on its projects.
The Company is also evaluating 25 sites owned by municipalities
and private developers located in WMECo’s service territory.
The Company expects to draw upon these prospective sites as it
develops additional projects during 2010. WMECo will complete
the remainder of its 6 MW program by 2012.