East Road Solar Array Construction Officially Begins

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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State Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, second from left, a strong alternative energy supporter, and Town Administrator Tony Mazzucco, right, join solar executives at Tuesday's ground breaking.

ADAMS, Mass. — Solar energy supporters ceremonially tossed a little sod Tuesday morning at the ceremonial groundbreaking of an East Road solar array now under development.

The 1.4 megawatt array on private land will allow residential and business customers to reap some of the benefits of solar power without having to host any photovoltaic panels.

Dignitaries including state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, Town Administrator Tony Mazzucco and representatives from the Clean Energy Collective and the state Department of Energy Resources were on hand for 217 East Road groundbreaking.

Downing said the community-shared solar array like this one will add more diversity and allow people to consume renewable power.

"What we are doing right now is really transitioning to that more ideal grid, where we can create more of our energy here locally, and we can create it from renewable sources that won't impact and damage the environment that we all know separate this beautiful region from so many other areas," the Pittsfield Democrat said. "We know the choices we make today will have an impact for years to come and we are making sure those impacts are positive ones."

Mazzucco welcomed the array as a new element that will grow the town's tax base and economy. He said it will aid residents and business who have suffered from high electrical rates.

"It wasn't just the weather that was killing us this winter: Electricity prices for businesses and homes skyrocketed this winter," he said. "The more projects like this and the more energy we can bring, brings stability, it is good for the municipality, and it is good for the average citizen out there."

Mazzucco said the solar array comes with a $15,000 flat annual payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement. He said he would like to use the consistent revenue stream for economic development.

The array is being built in partnership with Clean Energy Collective, a community solar developer focused on building, operating and maintaining community-based clean energy facilities jointly owned by participating utility customers.

The groundbreaking was purely ceremonial; posts for the 4,500 photovoltaic panels are nearly all installed.

Chief Operating Officer Tom Sweeney said the project will cost approximately $3 million and that 40 percent of this will go to labor.

"Without community solar, the majority of the ratepayers cannot participate because they cannot put it on their homes," Sweeney said. "They don't have space on their office roofs or home roofs so community solar power is what we believe to be the future for distributive generation."

CEC has 34 projects nationwide, including six in Massachusetts. The Adams project is among its larger arrays, although it has a combined presence in Uxbridge of 3 MW. Its largest appears to be a 1.8 MW facility in Colorado.

It is estimated to save customers nearly $7 million and offset an annual carbon dioxide output equivalent to 97,000 trees.

Acting Department of Energy Resources Commissioner Dan Burgess said the 1.4 MW array helps propel Massachusetts forward in renewable energy use and development. In 2008, there were 3 MW of solar power in the state, he said, now there are nearly 800 MW.

"In just six years we have seen incredible growth in solar with projects like this," Burgess said. "It's part of a greater movement that is grow clean energy, and it is helping cities and towns and helping create a robust clean energy market."

Former Gov. Deval Patrick had set a goal of 1,600 MW by 2020, part of an ambitious push toward alternative and renewable energies. Gov. Charlie Baker remains committed to that goal. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, nearly 400 solar companies employ more than 9,000 statewide; nearly $800 million was invested in solar in the state last year alone.

The array almost didn't happen. The Planning Board voted down the project in 2013 because it was it would negatively affect the neighborhood. Abuttors had opposed proximity of the panels and expressed concerns over water runoff. However, a vote by the Zoning Board of Appeals reversed the planners' decision.

Abutting property owners took legal action against the developer and the town because they felt the ZBA acted beyond its jurisdiction and the decision was made unfairly. However, many residents dropped out of the case and the project has moved forward.

Tags: clean energy,   solar array,   

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