University of Massachusetts to save $30M with solar

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The towns of Warren and Millbury, Massachusetts, are going solar with four solar projects totaling 17MW. The projects will result in significant environmental and economic benefits for the local communities. 

First Wind has begun construction on 17MW of solar projects in the Massachusetts communities of Warren and Millbury. The company recently secured financing and finalized a long-term power purchase agreement (PPA) with the University of Massachusetts (UMass), as well as net metering agreements with the towns of Millbury and Orange. The projects are the company’s first set of renewable energy projects in its home state and its first solar development.

First Wind’s solar project portfolio in Massachusetts will include a 3MW project in Millbury and a 14MW project at three sites in Warren. The combined Warren projects will comprise the second-largest solar project in Massachusetts. Construction activities will create about 85 construction-related jobs and drive spending with local businesses. Once the solar installations are operating, First Wind will make annual tax payments to Warren and Millbury, providing additional revenue to the communities of $130,000 and $50,000, respectively.

The majority of the power generated from the four projects will be delivered to the Lowell and Medical Center campuses of UMass via a 30-year PPA. Through these solar projects, UMass will save more than $1 million in annual energy costs, or a total of more than $30 million over the lifetime of the PPA. 

The agreement is part of a larger UMass initiative to cut energy costs and reduce its carbon footprint, and it also supports the Commonwealth’s ambitious solar energy goals. After reaching the state’s goal four years early of 250MW of solar energy installed in May 2013, Governor Patrick recently announced a new goal of 1,600MW of solar power by 2020.

In addition to UMass, the towns of Millbury and Orange have agreed to purchase a smaller portion of the energy generated by the projects, saving $110,000 and $85,000 per year, respectively. 

KeyBank National Association provided a construction and term facility loan for the project and U.S. Bank provided the tax equity. Construction the projects is being led by Borrego Solar Systems. Construction began earlier this month and all four projects should be completed and operating by June 2014.

Besides benefits for the local economies, the projects will have significant environmental benefits as well: a traditional fossil-fueled facility in Massachusetts producing an equivalent amount of electricity as expected from the four solar projects combined would consume over 45,000 barrels of oil or over 13,000 tons of coal per year. The renewable power produced by First Wind’s solar projects will be the equivalent of decreasing carbon dioxide emissions by over 19,000 tons annually or the equivalent of removing 3,600 cars from the road, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Emissions and Generation Resource Integrated Database.