October 27, 2010 By Lauren Katims Nadeau
Twenty-three state-owned buildings in Massachusetts are being converted to solar-powered facilities as soon as 2011 — a project that state officials said will cut energy budgets and create new jobs.
The design and construction, which is currently underway, will produce almost four megawatts of solar energy for the state throughout public buildings, including colleges, housing complexes, correctional facilities and the Logan International Airport, which serves the Greater Boston area.
The project is part of Gov. Deval Patrick’s Leading by Example program, established in 2007, which directs state government agencies to improve energy efficiency, promote clean energy technology and reduce environmental impact by 2012.
“We recognized the need to move this project forward,” said Leading by Example Director Eric Friedman, referring to the potential for new jobs and energy savings. “We’re working closely with the sites and contractors … We have a pretty aggressive timeline in terms of construction.”
The project’s overall cost is $19 million, said Friedman, but little of those funds are coming from the state budget. Most of the funds are being paid by federal stimulus funding and third-party vendors.
Under a power purchase agreement with various private companies, the participating state agencies will receive a discounted rate for solar-generated electricity, compared to their current electricity costs.
The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources met with dozens of agencies to create the list of public-sector buildings that would be a good fit for this endeavor, said Friedman. A major factor was physical parameters, such as roof condition, minimal shading and willingness to participate in the project.
“This list of 23 was really the best list that we could come up with,” he said.
Last week, panels were installed on the largest of the 23 projects at Berkshire Community College (BCC) in western Massachusetts. After the project is completed later this fall, the system is expected to produce 440,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity — enough to supply more than 20 percent of the school’s demand.
“Every dollar that isn’t spent on a utility bill by BCC is a dollar that can be spent in a classroom or on other upgrades,” state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing said in a press release.
BCC President Paul Raverta added, “We’re excited that very soon we will be able to say that BCC is powered by the sun.”
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