Solar Facility to Save Massachusetts City $2.6M Over 20 Years

Pittsfield, Massachusetts – the largest city and county seat of Berkshire County – flipped the switch on March 24 on a municipal solar power generation facility, a 2.91-MW ground-mounted array installed at a former landfill site.

In 2015, the city contracted with Ameresco, a provider of energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions – to design and build the facility on city land. Now, Ameresco owns, and will operate and maintain, the project at no charge to Pittsfield, in exchange for a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with the city. The system is expected to generate more than 3 million kilowatt-hours in the first year and over 58 million kilowatt-hours over the contract term.

City officials had reviewed eight proposals since last November, according to The Berkshire Eagle,  and determined Ameresco was the best option to placing thousands of solar panels at the former city landfill at the end of Downing Parkway.”The evaluation committee has considered Ameresco’s qualifications with respect to solar photovoltaic installations and direct experience working on capped landfills, in addition to the favorable economics of their price offerings,” James McGrath, Pittsfield’s Parks and Open Space manager.

In addition to the reduced cost-per-kWh of energy, and the personal property tax revenue paid by Ameresco for the system, this project will save the city up to $140,000 annually with an estimated savings of $2.6 million over the duration of the contract.

Indeed, the solar PPA provides  Pittsfield with a no-capital-cost approach to the use of renewable energy. It also establishes a long-running reduction in electricity costs from the utility grid, because the city can continue to purchase discounted energy for the next 20 years

“It is exciting to know that the City of Pittsfield continues to make great strides toward our energy consumption in an environmentally sustainable way,” said Mayor Linda Tyer in a formal release. “Moreover, this collaboration will generate significant savings for the city over time and firmly positions Pittsfield as a proponent of green energy initiatives.”

McGrath noted, “This project creates the opportunity to give otherwise unusable land a new life by converting it into a site to generate solar energy. We’ve converted what was once a cost center for the city into a revenue generating asset,” said McGrath.

Pittsfield is hoping to minimize interconnection costs, given that the regulated utility for the region, Eversource, has a transmission running through the landfill site, The Berkshire Eagle said.

In addition to developing solar installations on landfills in other Massachusetts communities – among them, Lenox, Stockbridge, Northampton, Lowell, Acton, Braintree and Sudbury – Ameresco also operates five solar installations along the Massachusetts Turnpike; with two more in final construction, as well as more than 110 large sites on municipal rooftops and parking canopies

Rebecca Rutenberg