Haverhill's PV array to be Massachusetts' largest—for now

Things in the beautiful, historic town of Haverhill, Mass., are about to get a bit more sunny. The town will soon be home to Massachusetts’ largest photovoltaic (PV) farm (at least for a hot minute), which also is one of the largest in-town installations in the country.

At 1.01 megawatts, the system being installed by National Grid is far from the largest in the nation. But it is capable of powering about 200 homes in Haverhill. And the system should be operational in time for Christmas.

“We’re going to be planning a big ceremony when it opens,” said Andrew Herlihy, chief of staff for Haverhill Mayor James Fiorentini. “National Grid’s hoping to flip the switch…within a few weeks. The project is about 90 percent done.”

He said that National Grid was installing the last rack of PV this week.

The project site was selected because it was a brownfield, Herlihy explained.

“It was a vacant weed-strung lot,” he said. “It’s certainly the most open and accessible site.” Previously it was home to tall, unsightly gas tanks.

“It’s going to be a neat feature of the town. We’re hoping to play off that and proud to host it,” Herlihy said.

Among other things, the town is working to incorporate it into educational programs, so that classes can visit the site and learn about solar.

Although Haverhill has other PV systems—namely smaller PV systems at the Haverhill Citizens Center and in GAR Park—it doesn’t have any as large as this new, 5-acre facility. Herlihy said,

“It was interesting at the local level to permit this,” he said. At the outset of the project, the town didn’t have any means of permitting such a project. But now that it’s permitted the project, Haverhill’s ready for future large PV installations, he explained.

According to Herlihy, the PV array is being built by National Grid to comply with the state’s renewable energy standard.

The standard requires power providers to source at least 15 percent of new electric generation from renewable resources by 2020.

The Haverhill site is the fourth and largest PV installation undertaken by National Grid in Massachusetts. And it’s certainly the most visible to the public, Herlihy said.

Pictured: Haverhill's PV array, under construction, courtesy of National Grid.