Adams 'Role Model' For Solar Power Use

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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ADAMS, Mass. — Adams was being touted as a role model for incorporating alternative energy to save jobs and dollars on Friday as officials gathered to celebrate a soon-to-be-constructed 1.1-megawatt solar array.

"We would ask you to be the educators of the future and to be the role models here," said Secretary Richard. K. Sullivan of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. "We spend $22 billion a year on energy, and of that 80 percent of those dollars, some $18 billion, not only leaves the state it leaves the country. So when you're making investments here, you're creating jobs here."

The town is the first in the state to develop a photovoltaic array through a power purchase agreement. It has been in the planning stages for about a year; the PPA with selected developer Tecta Solar, a division of Tecta America Corp., was signed last month.

Town Administrator Jonathan Butler said the energy produced by the array will be enough to power nearly all public facilities — from the waste-water treatment plant, to the library, to playing fields, to the community center. Estimated savings range from $135,000 to $175,000 a year, or $2.3 million over the 15-year agreement. 

"This project will make reuse of the site behind us, which is a capped landfill closed for nearly two decades and is unusable for another 36-plus years," said Butler, as a red-tailed hawk wheeled lazily above, soaking up the sun.

"Too often I think Adams is mischaracterized as being merely a sleepy old mill town stuck in the past unable to find our way," he told officials and McCann Technical School students gathered under a white tent on the old landfill. "This project is proof of our potential to be more progressive, to be more ambitious, to be capable of setting lofty goals and reaching those goals and not only to be player but a leader in the evolution of the Berkshire County economy."

Sullivan said Butler's explanation of the savings possible was at the heart of the Patrick-Murray administration's energy goals that call for 2,000 MW of wind power and 250 MW of solar within the next two decades. (Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray had planned to attend but was touring sites affected by Hurricane Irene.)

Describing it as the "most agressive goal in the country," Sullivan said the genius of the plan was an investment of $2 bilion in conservation and efficiency that will return $6 billion in savings over the lif of the investment.

"That's the beauty of the governor's plan, because while it does good things for the environment, it makes sense from an economic point of view," he said. "Every decision we're asking people to make, makes sense at the bottom line."

Students from McCann Technical School's electrical program were invited to attend. Right, Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, Tecta Solar Managing Director Samir Dube and Sullivan. Cariddi, Dube and Sen. Benjamin B. Downing also spoke.
Samir Dube, managing director of Tecta Solar, said state's policies and key partner National Grid were essential in "the quiet reuse of this brownfield."

"This solar farm will provide energy independence, carbon-free energy, and most importanlty, budget savings to the town for its citizens and generations to come," he said.

Butler said the town is prepared to share its insights, experience and details of its power sharing agreement to help other communities find savings through alternative energy.

Between 5,000 and 6,000 solar panels will start being arrayed on East Road site in the next month or two, once an agreement has been reached with National Grid. The array is expected to be in completed by mid-winter. The panels are made in China but the invertors will be sourced in Massachusetts; about 50 people will be involved in the installation.

McCann Tech, just down the road in North Adams, is hoping to get in on the action either by monitoring the array or allowing students to work on the site. Dube said Tecta is open to partnering in some way, depending on regulations.

Teacher Donald Tatro, who has a background in photovoltaics, said the school has been helpful in providing some equipment for instruction in solar and hoping the state will follow suit.

"Even though it's not part of our curriculum yet, we're hoping the state will jump on board and make it part of our curriculum so we can get this moving," said Tatro. "These kids are hungry for it, too. They want to do this stuff. It's their future."

Sullivan said the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers is very much behind alternative energy. Over the past few years, clean energy jobs had grown by 65 percent and is considered among the fastest growing job sector.

The 17 students from McCann's electrical program were invited to front-row seats at the event for their first morning of the school year.

Juniors J.T. Therrien, Calvin Dziedziak and Alyssa Daunais were intrigued by the possibilities and hopeful of future employment.

"It's exciting," said Therrien. "It's good for the environment, it's going to help out saving money and help out in earning money ... there could be some jobs from it."

Tags: McCann,   solar array,   

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