As the photograph on Page A4 of Saturday’s Berkshire Eagle testifies, solar panels, in this case those lined up in a geometrically satisfying array at the Pittsfield Wastewater Treatment Plant, are an impressive spectacle. What is most impressive, of course, is the good they accomplish by making use of a powerful natural resource, the sun overhead.
The treatment plant was one of six stops Friday on a "Summer Solstice Solar Tour" made by state energy and environment officials, including state Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner David Cash. The premise of the tour was to highlight areas that were seen or could be seen as environmental liabilities but were turned into environmental accomplishments by converting them into sources of green energy, in this case solar.
In the case of the solar facility at the wastewater treatment plant, which is now four years old, it produces 1,574 megawatts of power annually, saving the city $353,000 in costs in 2013, and cuts 1,200 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. An advanced anaerobic design system, state energy officials say, is allowing the plant to efficiently digest sludge to produce power, benefiting the city, consumers and the environment all at once.
As Mr. Cash and state Department of Energy Resources Commissioner Mark Sylvia both observed Friday, the city of Pittsfield deserves praise for getting on the solar bandwagon early. This praise should be extended to Berkshire Community College for its solar efforts, and Pittsfield and communities all over north and south Berkshire County have advanced the cause by participating in Solarize Mass, the state-sponsored solar energy program.
Berkshire County is heavily invested in protecting the natural beauty that attracts visitors from far and wide. Through expanded use of solar energy, it can protect that beauty while also reducing energy costs for municipalities and for residents. In doing so, it is also making a statement about protecting the globe as well.