Massachusetts utility sees spike in requests for renewable energy projects

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Landfill solar project just one of many new Mass. projectsNSTAR, the largest investor-owned utility in Massachusetts, is seeing an increase in renewable energy projects seeking to connect to its grid.

One such project is the Canton Landfill Solar Facility in Massachusetts, being developed by Southern Sky Renewable Energy.

The company will sell the electricity through NSTAR’s power lines. Southern Sky predicts that it will break ground on the project in the spring. When completed, the 5.6-megawatt photovoltaic installation will take up 15 acres of the 40-acre, capped landfill. It will be the largest in Massachusetts, according to Southern Sky.

While the company plans to break ground soon, it’s not quite ready yet, said NSTAR spokesperson Michael Durand. “[The Canton project] is still going through the application process,” he said.

The utility conducts engineering reviews of projects like the Canton landfill project, Durand said.

“The goal is to let the developer know what needs to be done to modify existing electrical equipment in the area,” he said. “If there are modifications needed to the grid, then we’ll let the developer know what the price is, and they’ll pay the price for modifications.”

After the modifications to the site and grid are made, the projects can then be constructed and tied to the grid.

The Canton landfill project is just one of many renewable energy projects that the company is in the process of permitting, according to Durand.

“There has been quite an increase in applications for renewable energy recently. It’s a result of statewide goals to increase the amount of those projects coming online,” he said. “I can’t say with certainty how many are solar versus wind. But I can tell you definitely that there’s been a considerable increase for renewable energy projects.”

Massachusetts has a goal of 15 percent renewable energy by 2020, increasing every year by 1 percent thereafter. In addition, it has a targeted goal of having 400 megawatts of solar installed in-state through its Solar Carve-Out Renewable Generation Units program.

In the past, most of the larger renewable energy projects that NSTAR permitted were wind projects, Durand said. But the amount of solar projects is increasing.

“So far, a large percentage of the applications we’ve seen over the last few years have come to fruition,” he said.

The growth is fairly recent, Durand said.

“We assume they will all come online,” he said. “At this point, time will tell.”

Pictured: The Canton solar landfill project's proposed area. Image courtesy of Southern Sky Renewable Energy.