Solar energy celebrated in city

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PITTSFIELD -- The sun took center stage on Tuesday when city and state officials marked the solstice by showing off Pittsfield's nearly complete solar installation at the wastewater treatment plant.

"Western Massachusetts is where it's at when it comes to renewable energy projects," said Steven Clarke, an assistant secretary of energy and environmental affairs. "What better way to celebrate the longest day of sunlight than by reflecting on our progress towards a greener future."

Clarke said the expansive field of 7,545 solar arrays is the largest installation in the state.

Behind him, a handful of workers moved through the sea of deep-blue photovoltaic panels, stopping and stooping periodically as they prepared the installation's wiring. Appropriately, the sun was out in full force for the occasion.

The solar field should be ready to go live in October or November, said Eric Aubrey, the project's manager for contractor Nexamp.

Officials said the 1.5-megawatt installation in Pittsfield -- one of 17 built at wastewater plants across the state -- was symbolic of the progress Massachusetts has made in the past five years.

"We know that if we choose green energy, we create job in our communities and save money for our municipalities," said state Sen. Ben B. Downing, D-Pittsfield. "I'm proud to represent Pittsfield, the solar capital of the commonwealth."

Meanwhile, Pittsfield Mayor James M. Ruberto praised the governor's office for helping to secure funding for the $8 million project, which the city estimates will save taxpayers about $200,000 in energy costs annually.

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