Western Massachusetts Electric Company Files Solar Plan

Western Massachusetts Electric Company (WMECO) filed a plan with the Department of Public Utilities to implement a large-scale solar energy program in its service area.

Under Massachusetts’ Green Communities Act, passed in 2008, electric distribution companies like WMECO are authorized to play a critical role in meeting the state’s solar energy goal of developing 250 megawatts (MW) of installed solar by 2017. Under the Act, WMECO is allowed to own up to 50 MW of solar facilities.

"Our program has been carefully designed to become a progressive model for utility-owned solar assets," Peter Clarke, President and COO of WMECO, said. "The knowledge gained from the program also can be applied to other distributed renewable technologies, including wind and biomass, which are equally important to the state’s goals for energy independence and energy security."

In the first phase of the WMECO plan, eight locations have been identified as potential host sites of solar facilities. The potential sites include: The University of Massachusetts Amherst Fine Arts Center The City of Pittsfield’s landfill Springfield Central High School The former GE site now owned by the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority Ludlow Westbound Rest Area Ludlow Mills Utility-owned properties: Silver Lake Road, Pittsfield 300 Cadwell Drive, Springfield

WMECO selected Springfield and Pittsfield for sites because they are the two "Gateway Cities" in WMECO’s service territory, which the state has targeted as regional economic development priorities. These initial sites will provide six megawatts of solar capacity at a total cost of approximately $42 million. By adding additional sites between 2010 and 2012, WMECO’s solar capacity could expand to 15 MW by the end of 2012. Beyond 2012 WMECO could expand the number of sites to reach 50 MW.

WMECO will help offset the program’s costs by selling not only the electricity generated by the solar arrays but also its environmental and other credits through programs such as Renewable Energy Credits and New England’s Forward Capacity Market. Value obtained from these transactions as well as any grants, incentives or other sources of funds will be used to help pay for the program.

If approved, the bill impact on customers is expected to be modest, amounting initially to less than $1 per month for an average residential customer using 500 kilowatt hours (kWh) per month.

Website: http://www.wmeco.com/     
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