Mass. landfill project just one of company's big municipal solar installs

WGES to install solar on Brookfield, Mass. capped landfillThe town of Brookfield, Mass. announced this week that it has entered a power purchase agreement for 434 kilowatts of solar energy that will power all of the town’s operations.

Washington Gas Energy Systems will finance, build, own and maintain the system for the town.

“The unique thing about this project is its location,” said Sanjiv Mahan, spokesman for Washington Gas Energy Systems. “The town had a capped landfill that wasn’t being utilized.”

Town leaders worked hard to find a good green use for the landfill, he said. And solar made sense.

“Small towns like ours were hit hard by the economic downturn,” said Brookfield Selectman Rudy Heller, “and anytime we can find a way to generate revenue for the town, it’s a plus. If at the same time we reduce our carbon footprint, everybody wins.”

The system will generate enough electricity to power 100 homes and will power nearly all of the town’s operations, including schools, emergency response, street lights and the town hall building.

While a large accomplishment for the town of Brookfield, the landfill installation also illustrates the direction Washington Gas Energy Systems is heading with its business. Brookfield is the second Massachusetts town the company has announced it will sell solar to within the last month.

Bellingham, Mass. is also installing a 3.8-megawatt solar array through Washington Gas Energy Systems to offset utility costs in its schools and government buildings.

“This is one of our vertical markets,” Mahan said. “Municipalities and towns are very worthy customers. We have done a lot with towns.”

He said the company has focused a lot of energy recently on developing solar projects for cities and for institutions like universities and school systems.

While the company has solar holdings all over the country, Mahan said Massachusetts and some other eastern states, such as Maryland, have proven to be good markets for the company in recent years.

“Massachusetts is just one of the states that’s really promoting renewable energy and sustainable energy,” he said.

The company has been working in the energy sector for more than 150 years, but just started developing its solar holdings in 2008.

“We have grown that portfolio to 30 megawatts across the country,” Mahan said. “We’ve put a lot of effort in growing solar as part of our overall ownership of distributed generation.”