Photo Gallery | Adams breaks ground on East Road solar project
ADAMS >> More than 17 months after a contentious set of public hearings divided town residents, the developers of a community solar project on East Road have broken ground.
The 1 megawatt array is expected to cost $3 million to build and will be open to the area National Grid customers, who can subscribe to the power generated to receive a 5 percent discount on their electricity bills.
Representatives from Clean Energy Collective, the company that owns the array, were joined by state and local officials at the site Tuesday for a ground-breaking celebration.
"In the end, community solar is really about providing equal access to all of the ratepayers to the benefits of, and being able to participate in, the construction of renewable energy projects," said Tom Sweeney, the chief operating officer of Clean Energy Collective. "Without community solar, the majority of the ratepayers can not participate."
Clean Energy Collective builds community solar arrays in multiple states throughout the country, and had offices in Worcester. It's also hoping to install adjacent solar arrays near Witt's Ledge in North Adams, which were approved by its planning board earlier this month.
The initial Adams proposal was knocked down by the town's planning board, under pressure from neighbors who opposed the installation, but the decision was reversed by the zoning board of appeals in November 2013. A group of neighbors filed an appeal, but the lawsuit was later resolved, according to project officials.
Posts that already line the field soon will be topped with solar panels that are expected to create $37,125 in savings for residential customers and $973,489 in savings for commercial subscribers, in addition to $10,000 to $15,000 of annual tax revenue for the town through a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT).
"It's growth in our tax base and it's growth in our local economy," said Adams Town Administrator Tony Mazzucco. "And, of course, it's clean energy."
Mazzucco said the revenue generated from Clean Energy Collective's PILOT will be earmarked specifically for economic development purposes, which has seen a renewed focus since he took office earlier this year.
"We are open for business, we are open for development," he said.
The amount saved for the duration of the 20-year contract, which requires no money down, is expected to be $2,598 for the average homeowner, according to Clean Energy Collective. Over that same timeframe, the company estimates the array will save more than 48,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions from entering the atmosphere.
State Sen. Benjamin Downing, D-Pittsfield, and Dan Burgess, acting commissioner of the Department of Energy Resources, lauded the state's jump from 3 megawatts of solar energy production in 2008 to nearly 800 megawatts today. Downing also noted that more than 80,000 people are employed in the renewable energy field across the commonwealth.
"It's a pretty simple calculus; we reduce the amount of energy that we use by being first in the nation in energy efficiency, we use what we use smarter, and we make sure what we use comes from cleaner sources," Downing said.