Local leaders and industry representatives celebrate the Massachusetts-based solar project, highlighting economic and community benefits of cost-competitive clean energy
BOSTON--First Wind, an independent U.S.-based renewable energy company, today celebrated the end of construction of the Warren Solar project and announced that commercial operations have begun. In a ceremony that included state and community leaders, Massachusetts energy officials, and renewable energy industry representatives, the 14 megawatt (MW) (AC) Worcester County-based project was recognized not only as joining First Wind's 3 MW (AC) Millbury, MA solar project in commercial operations, but also as part of First Wind's first solar developments and first renewable energy projects in its home state of Massachusetts.
"As Massachusetts leads the way in bringing clean energy to homes and business across the Commonwealth, we are thrilled to have partners like First Wind provide a financial boost and local benefits to the area," said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Maeve Vallely Bartlett. "With this project, First Wind is contributing to our sustainable future and helping to reach Governor Patrick's goal of 1,600 MW installed by 2020."
Located at three sites in the town of Warren, MA, construction began in the fall of 2013 after a long-term power purchase agreement (PPA) was finalized with the University of Massachusetts (UMass). As part of the PPA, the UMass Lowell campus and UMass Medical School in Worcester will receive a portion of the financial benefit resulting from the Warren projects. UMass Lowell and UMass Medical School are expected to avoid an estimated $410,000 and $670,000 in utility costs per annum, respectively over the course of the 30-year agreement.
John Baker, UMass Medical School's associate vice chancellor for facilities noted, "Since we have limited locations where on-site solar would work, we are restricted in our ability to do a large on-site solar installation. When we learned about the virtual net metering program, we realized instantly that the financial and environmental benefits could be substantial. The UMass Medical School portion of the First Wind project will generate enough energy to power roughly 932 homes in New England annually and produce an estimated $400,000 in savings each year for the UMass Medical School. We plan to leverage that money and use it to do more energy efficiency and renewable energy projects."
"Environmental stewardship is one of our core values and we are proud to partner with First Wind to expand the amount of clean, renewable energy available while also realizing financial benefits," said Tom Dreyer, UMass Lowell's associate vice chancellor for facilities. "As a public higher education institution, we also strive to promote a sustainability-conscious community. By helping to get clean and cost competitive energy built we are not only saving money, we're setting a powerful example for others to follow."
This unique relationship is one more aspect of UMass Lowell's multi-faceted sustainability and energy conservation program, which also includes a goal of carbon neutrality, LEED construction, academic programs and campus community involvement. Competitive Energy Services, with an office in Topsfield Massachusetts, advised UMass Lowell and UMass Medical School on the Warren and Millbury projects.
Now that both the Warren and Millbury Solar projects have started operations and begun to generate power, First Wind will make annual tax payments of $50,000 to the town of Millbury and $130,000 annually in tax payments to the town of Warren. In addition, the towns of Millbury and Orange, MA will realize annual energy savings by receiving a smaller portion of the energy generated through net metering agreements.
"First Wind's Warren solar project not only delivers clean, renewable energy, but it also serves as an economic boost for local economies," said Representative Todd M. Smola. "I am pleased and proud that the Commonwealth is making such progress in securing a more affordable energy future for our citizens."
Borrego Solar Systems, Inc. led construction of both the Warren and Millbury the projects, which created roughly 85 construction-related jobs. Both projects represent a significant investment in the surrounding communities and local economies, along with millions of dollars in construction, materials and development costs.
"We are very pleased to complete work on our Warren Solar project, which represents our second solar project to achieve successful commercial operations," said Paul Gaynor, CEO of First Wind. "Not only are we contributing to the state's aggressive energy goals, but we are also able to directly benefit the surrounding communities with financial and clean energy advantages. Massachusetts is a national leader in embracing renewable energy, and it is a testament to our partners and leaders throughout the Commonwealth that our first solar endeavor has achieved success here in our home state."
The Warren and Millbury projects are the first solar projects that are part of the First Wind Solar Group, which was formed to explore potential development opportunities across the company's current footprint in the Northeast, the West and Hawaii. In addition, First Wind Solar Group is also developing a 20 MW (AC) solar project in Mililani, Hawaii, as well as 340 MW (AC) across multiple project sites in Utah through PPAs with Rocky Mountain Power, a division of PacifiCorp.
About First Wind
First Wind is an independent renewable energy company exclusively focused on the development, financing, construction, ownership and operation of utility-scale renewable energy projects in the United States. Based in Boston, First Wind is operating or building renewable energy projects in the Northeast, the West and Hawaii, with combined capacity of nearly 1,300 megawatts (MW) – enough to power more than 375,000 homes each year. For more information on First Wind, please visit www.firstwind.com or follow us on Twitter @FirstWind.