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IN THE NEWS: State Highlights Solar On Solstice In Pittsfield
June 22, 2011

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — On the sunniest day of the year, state officials stopped by the solar array at the wastewater treatment facility Tuesday to show off the state's push toward green energy.

"Today marks the first day of summer, the longest day of sunlight each year and what better way to celebrate than by reflecting on our progress that we've made toward solar energy and renewable energy in general in the commonwealth," state Energy and Environmental Affairs Assistant Secretary Steven Clarke said at a Pittsfield stop on a solar tour state officials embarked on Tuesday.

"Last week [the state] passed the 50 megawatt mark and now have solar power installed statewide equal the electricity used by over 8,000 households."

State House officials represented the executive branch at four green energy projects across the state Tuesday including Boston, Carver and Sutton.

In Pittsfield, Clarke represented Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard Sullivan Jr. and was joined by Chairman of the Senate Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Joint Committee Sen. Benjamin Downing, D-Pittsfield, and Mayor James Ruberto.

The city was granted $8 million in stimulus funding to install 7,545 solar panels that produce 1.5 megawatts of electricity for the wastewater treatment plant. The array could supply up to 90 percent of the plant's energy consumption. The installation was part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment act administered by the state that awarded a $20 million contract to the solar company NextAmp to equip solar photovoltaic arrays at treatment plants across the state.

"I think green is the new red, white and blue. When you talk about our energy consumption," Downing said. "The last thing in the world somebody who has a kid going to schools in Pittsfield wants to hear is that their tax dollars are going to pay the electric company. They want to know that those dollars are making sure that they keep a highly qualified and skilled teacher in that classroom."

Clarke said that an estimated $18 billion dollars is sent out of the state in order to purchase coal, oil and natural gas annually. This will ease the burden of taxpayers on the local level, provide jobs and keep that money in the state, Clarke said.

Gov. Deval Patrick has set a goal for the state to create 250 megawatts of solar power by 2017. In 2007 the state produced just 3.5 megawatts, state officials said while showing a map of the state's solar projects then and now. The state has now eclipsed the 50 megawatt plateau.

"Wastewater treatment facilities are often times a municipality's largest source of electricity consumption so projects like this and energy efficiency projects can really help utilities enter in large-term electricity costs and reduce their negative impacts on the environment," Clarke said. "Continuing to grow the solar sector of our economy is a cornerstone of the Patrick/ [Lt. Gov. Timothy] Murray administration's clean energy and climate plan for 2020."

The city hold the title the "solar capital" of the state because of multiple solar projects, Downing said, but that is being contended by a number of towns.

However, Downing guaranteed that whomever takes that title will be a town from his district because of the local push to use the natural resources. The wastewater project was the largest of the wastewater facilities but it is second in the county behind the array on former General Electric land.

""There are a number of solar projects and alternative energy projects in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. There are because we have a governor who is absolutely committed to making sure that we are the leader in the commonwealth. That we are the leader in alternative energy and green energy," Ruberto said. "Of all of those projects, I don't think any one of them has a prettier setting than what lies behind me."


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