News & Press
Easthampton solar array producing power, savings
Daily Hampshire Gazette
June 6, 2012
EASTHAMPTON - The 2-megawatt solar array on the capped Oliver Street landfill has been converting sunlight into savings for the city since it was switched on Friday.
The 9,620-panel array, which had produced almost 47,000 kilowatt hours of electricity by Tuesday, is the culmination of a three-year effort by officials to turn the city's capped landfills into sources of energy.
"We're so pleased. Hopefully our experiences with the project can be an example for other communities," said Mayor Michael A. Tautznik, who championed the project as a way for the city to save on electricity bills while using more clean energy. "It's been a challenge, but it's been worth it."
Tautznik said the amount of electricity the array has produced since it was turned on is more than the amount used at the Public Safety Complex on Payson Avenue in August 2011, roughly 39,000 kilowatt hours.
An online production meter that shows the amount of energy being generated can be viewed by clicking the "Oliver Street solar electricity production" link on the city's website, www.easthampton.org.
Tautznik said the online meter illustrates how solar energy works. On Monday, he said, "it was really pretty gloomy, but it generated almost 4,000 kilowatt hours. And on June 3, when it was sunny, it produced more than twice that."
A list of equivalents on the website notes that the energy produced since Friday could power the average American home for 1,520 days.
The project is the first fully functional large-scale solar array on a Massachusetts landfill, Tautznik said.
The city proposed installing solar arrays on its landfills in 2009. In 2010 Tautznik signed a contract with Borrego Solar Systems Inc. of Lowell to build the $20 million array at no cost to the city.
In exchange, the city is purchasing the electricity from Borrego at 6 cents per kilowatt hour. It will receive credit on its electricity bill at a rate of 9 cents per kilowatt hour through a net metering agreement with Western Massachusetts Electric Co.
Based on the predicted annual output of the array - about 3 million kilowatt hours - that could mean about $90,000 in annual savings for Easthampton, Tautznik said.
The project was completed in December and was scheduled to be turned on in February. A series of delays caused the city to miss out on more than three months' worth of energy production, Tautznik said.
The most recent setback occurred May 17, after the solar array was online for only a few hours. A test determined that a switch designed to stop the flow of electricity to allow utility crews to work on power lines did not respond correctly. Borrego reprogrammed the switch, and tests on Friday showed that it was working properly, Tautznik said.
In March, a disagreement between WMECO and Verizon about what kind of cable should be used in the emergency shut-off switch also delayed the project.
Rebecca Everett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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