The project will be the company’s second large-scale solar development. It recently completed construction on a 1.8-megawatt Silver Lake solar facility in Pittfsield, Mass., said Western Massachusetts Electric spokesperson Sandra Ahearn.
The Commonwealth recently set a goal of installing 250 megawatts of solar by 2017. Under the Green Communities Act, each utility in the state is allowed to own 50 megawatts of its own solar power production.
WMECo has a surcharge built into its rates to cover the cost of new solar developments, though the company will likely pass some additional cost from the $22 million project in Springfield on to ratepayers, Ahearn said.
The utility company looked hard for the right place to establish its first 1.8-megawatt solar development last year before settling on brownfield land that was once used as a transformer station in Pittsfield, which was going to be difficult to redevelop, Ahearn said.
The company again focused on a good location for its largest solar project. Administrators considered rooftops, agricultural land and, of course, capped landfills.
The utility decided on the privately-owned landfill property on Cottage Street in Springfield for practical reasons, Ahearn said.
“We thought it was a good opportunity to reclaim land that would have otherwise been a very big challenge to redevelop,” she said. “As you may know about solar, the facilities can sit virtually on top of anything without being intrusive at all.”
The utility does not expect any pushback from neighbors, she said.
“It’s a win, win for everyone involved,” she said.
The array will include about 17,000 solar panels and will produce 4.2 megawatts of power during its peak production.
In addition to the increase in solar electricity, the project will also infuse the community with jobs, according to a press release. The $22 million going into the new monster array, the largest in New England, will go toward construction and early operational costs. The project will also result in several thousand dollars of property tax revenue for the local community.
Ahearn said the utility will have to apply for more permits for other solar projects and that there are not currently any other new project on the table, but that the utility will be looking for opportunities.
Image courtesy of WMECo.