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Utility Co. Starts Third Solar Project In Western Massachusetts


A major utility company has started construction on a third large solar facility in western Massachusetts.  Despite being a northeast state Massachusetts has seen a boom in solar power over the last five years.

The new solar plant for Western Massachusetts Electric Company will contain over 13,000 solar panels that will generate 3.9 megawatts of electricity-enough to power more than 600 homes.  It is being built on a capped landfill on Springfield’s east side.  Company president Craig Hallstrom says it is the utility’s largest solar project so far.

WEMCo’s other solar facilities are in Pittsfield and in Springfield’s Indian Orchard neighborhood on a former industrial site.  Company officials were joined by city and state officials at the Indian Orchard solar facility to announce the details of the latest project.

When all three solar facilities are operational next summer the company will produce 8 megawatts of electricity from the sun, exceeding an initial commitment of 6 megawatts.

WEMCo will spend $13.6 million to build the solar facility on the capped landfill, according to company officials.

Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard Sullivan said that with the help of large scale solar plants built by public utility companies and private investors the state has already achieved a goal set by Governor Patrick to install 250 megawatts of solar electricity by 2017.

Solar has flourished in Massachusetts thanks to a market- based incentive program launched in 2009 that has helped pay for thousands of projects from small residential solar panel installations to big commercial developments.

Sullivan said the state has announced new goals to produce 15 percent of its electricity from renewable sources and generate 1600 megawatts of  power from solar by 2020. 

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said the city will collect roughly $750,000 in property taxes from the two solar facilities and put to productive use land that could otherwise not be developed.

More than two dozen communities in Massachusetts have put solar panels on top of capped and covered landfills.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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