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Jeffrey Simon, director of the state's Recovery and Reinvestment Agency, was surprised to see the size of the city's solar array at the wastewater treatment plant and that was before he was told there are 675 more panels to be installed.

Stimulus Officials Happy With Pittsfield's Solar Project

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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Mayor James Ruberto said the city has been aggressively persuing renewable energy projects.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — When the city was granted about $8 million in stimulus money for a solar project, Jeffrey Simon, director of the state's Recovery and Reinvestment Agency,  did not realize it would be so large.

Simon returned to Pittsfield's wastewater treatment plant Wednesday to check on the state's investment and expressed amazement about the size and the city's push for renewable energy.

"This is magnificent. I didn't know it would be this large," Simon said while looking at the array. "It's great to see that you have something this impressive. It's just row after row after row."

The project includes 7,545 solar panels producing 1.5 megawatts, which accounts for 75 to 90 percent of the plant's energy consumption.

The city's solar array is the biggest one in the state funded with stimulus money and is only behind Western Massachusetts Electric's massive array on former General Electric land for largest overall.

However, those plants will soon be dwarfed by other projects in the state, according to Eric Aubry, who is a project manager with NextAmp — the company that landed the statewide stimulus contract.

"We know the goal of the governor is to create as much renewable energy as we can," Mayor James Ruberto said. "People who say the stimulus doesn't work, they're crazy."

Bruce Collingwood, the city's commissioner of utilities, said the stimulus allowed the city to build a project it would otherwise not have afforded. The money saved can now go to other projects without affecting the tax rates, he said.

The city has made a tremendous push to invest grant money into energy efficiency and is embarking on all three models of solar panel projects, Collingwood said. The wastewater plant is municipal-owned, the General Electric site is privately owned by WMECo, and the city is working out an agreement for an array to go on leased land, he said.


Of 12 solar projects at wastewater treatment plants to received stimulus funding, the city's is the largest.
The city has also improved energy efficiency in nonsolar ways, including installing a turbine in the water system to generate hydroelectricity, he added.

"You really got out in front of it tremendously," Simon said. "We can't continue to rely on oil even if we could afford the high prices."

Compared to other wastewater projects Simon has visited, the city's array is less noticeable, he said.

"I'm really impressed that it fits right into the landscape. With others you kind of just come upon them," Simon said. "I think it is well-engineered and well-executed."

Simon said that a similar project in Milton is linked up to a website that schools use to teach about green energy; Collingwood said he aims to do that here, too.

"This will have the capability," Collingwood said. "I want to go there."

The city's project is expected to be online at the end of the summer or early fall, Aubry said. There are still 675 panels to be installed as well as some transformer and relay work left, he said.

In part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment act the state awarded a contract of about $20 million to NextAmp to install solar panel arrays at wastewater treatment plants. That company more than doubled its staff because of it and even started a whole new division to manage the sites, Aubry said.
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Cultural Pittsfield This Week: Dc. 6-12

Enjoy sixteen different art shows featuring work by more than two dozen accomplished regional artists in Pittsfield's bustling Upstreet Cultural District during the on First Friday Artswalk and all month long! In most venues, artists will be present from 5-8 p.m. A free guided tour begins at 5 p.m. at the Intermodal Center @ BRTA, 1 Columbus Ave.

The Office of Cultural Development will host its 5th annual Wreath Art Auction at the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts during the First Friday festivities. Almost 50 hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind wreaths, kissing balls and table pieces will be available for purchase and auction following the lighting of the tree in Park Square. Enjoy music and refreshments at a preview reception starting at 5 p.m., followed by a live auction at 6:30 p.m. Grab-and-go options will be available. All funds raised at this event go to the South Congregational Church Food Pantry. Admission at the door is $10, or purchase tickets in advance at the Lichtenstein Center or by emailing slemme@cityofpittsfield.org. 

These events coincide with Downtown Pittsfield's 2nd annual Festive Frolic
, running on Friday from 5-8 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Events include a North Pole Pub Crawl, snowman story time, ornament making, glow-in-the-dark Jingle Bell Rock, a craft fair, carolers, holiday lights, shopping opportunities and more!
 

  MUSIC & NIGHTLIFE

 
Mr. Finn's Cabaret at Barrington Stage Company presents local singer-songwriters Billy Keane and Matt Cusson, who will join forces to kick off the season right, with holiday songs and lots of fun. 7 p.m. $20-$25. 
Plus...  
FRI North Pole Pub Crawl in Downtown Pittsfield FRI Blue Light Trio at Rainbow FRI Yule Jam at Hancock Shaker Village | FRI Grahm Sturz at Hotel on North | FRI JB's Acoustic Gravel at PortSmitt's | FRI Patient Zero Records Show at Crossroads | FRI Legacy at The A | SAT Dust Bowl Faeries at The Whitney | SAT Holidays Around the World Dinner at Hancock Shaker Village | SAT Mike McMann at Proprietor's Lodge | SUN Service of Lessons & Carols at Hancock Shaker Village | MON Cabaret Workshop Performance at Berkshire Music School | MON Jazz Night at Mission | TUE Vinyl Soul Night at Thistle & Mirth | WED Gruppo Mondo at Rainbow | THU Holiday Lights at Arrowhead | THU Marc Black's History of the '50s & '60s at Berkshire Athenaeum | THU The Picky B's at Mission

  FAMILY FRIENDLY

SAT Visit with Santa at The Beacon Cinema
 
 
Visit with Santa at the Beacon Cinema as part of the Downtown Pittsfield Festive Frolic! This is a family event where children can have their photo taken with Santa by a professional photographer! In exchange, please donate a brand-new, unwrapped item to the Berkshire Community Action Council's Warm Clothing Program. See website for list of needed itemsIf you are unable to bring an item, a donation of $5 will be accepted by BCAC volunteers. 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
Plus...
FRI WeeMuse Adventures at Berkshire Athenaeum FRI Screening of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer at Berkshire Museum FRI-THU Parenting Classes & Play Groups at 18 Degrees SAT Festive Frolic Story Time at Berkshire Athenaeum SAT WeeMuse Art Lab at Berkshire Museum SAT FREE Kids' Crafts at Peace Train Tees SAT Chow Time at Berkshire Museum | SAT Make Holiday Ornaments at Berkshire Paint & Sip SAT We Can Be Heroes at Berkshire Museum SAT-SUN Brunch with Santa at Hancock Shaker Village SAT-SUN Albany Berkshire Ballet's The Nutcracker at Barrington Stage SUN Discovery Tank Program at Berkshire Museum SUN Billy Budd in the Breadbox Audio Book Launch at Arrowhead | SUN Gingerbread House Decorating Party at Dottie's MON Tiny Tots Story Time at Berkshire Athenaeum MON Dungeons & Dragons at Berkshire Athenaeum TUE WeeMuse Littlest Learners at Berkshire Museum TUE Graphic Novel Book Club at Berkshire Athenaeum WED WeeMuse Parent/Child STEM at Berkshire Museum THU Preschool Play & Learn at Berkshire Athenaeum THU Lego Club at Berkshire Athenaeum

  WELLNESS

SUN Restorative Yoga w/CBD Salve at BYDF
Join Amanda Marsh for a Restorative Yoga with CBD class at Berkshire Yoga Dance & Fitness. You will be guided into a deeply relaxing restorative yoga flow, blending supported yoga postures, breathing techniques, and cannabis-infused salve to encourage letting go fully into each yoga posture. 5:30-7 p.m. $25 for the class and $65 for the class and salve. 
Plus...
FRI-THU Various Classes at Berkshire Running Center | FRI-THU Various Classes at Berkshire Family YMCA | FRI-THU Various Classes at Berkshire Yoga Dance & Fitness FRI-THU Various Classes at Radiance Yoga | FRI-THU Various Classes at Berkshire Salsa FRI-THU Various Classes at Pilates Fit SUN Restorative Yoga w/Massage at Radiance Yoga | MON Common Yoga at Zion Lutheran Church | MON Let's Keep It Moving at Knesset Israel

  COMMUNITY

SAT+ A Christmas Carol at The Colonial Theatre
Revel in the joy and redemptive power of A Christmas Carol, the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, an infamous miser who is shown the error of his ways and reformed by four spirits. Journey back to Victorian England and experience the classic story filled with holiday carols and the wonderment of the season. $29/$39. A sensory-friendly performance will be held held on Wednesday, Dec. 11 at 6:30 p.m.
Plus...
FRI-SUN Gingerbread House Contest at Hancock Shaker Village | SAT Holiday Craft Fair, Cookie Walk & Tag Sale at Zion Lutheran Church | SAT Lyme Alliance Meeting at Berkshire Athenaeum SAT-SUN Brunch with Santa at Hancock Shaker Village | SAT-SUN Cop on Top 10th Anniversary at Walmart SAT-SUN Albany Berkshire Ballet's The Nutcracker at Barrington Stage | SUN Brunch w/Genna & Jess at Dottie's | SUN Gingerbread House Decorating Party at Dottie's | SUN Jazz Brunch at Hotel on North | SUN Berkshire Concert Choir at Berkshire Museum | SUN Hilltown Choral Society Holiday Concert at Zion Lutheran Church | SUN FREE Eagles Band Holiday Concert at First United Methodist | SUN Service of Lessons & Carols at Hancock Shaker Village | THU Open Swim at Gladys Allen Brigham Center | THU Holiday Lights at Arrowhead | THU Holiday Market at Dottie's

  LEARNING

TUE Paint "Holiday Pittsfield Park" at Paint & Sip
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